Our first granddaughter, born in the summer of 2007, will grow up in the South, most likely in Georgia. Her Grandpa and I lived near Annapolis, but planned to retire in western Maryland. So I knew the distance between us would challenge me. How could I build bridges, create a storehouse of information for her that she could read later in her life? What could she have from me after I had left this world?
My solution grew into a year’s worth of letters, written one per week on a Monday, and emailed to her parents. The letters started in July 2007 and ran through her first birthday. My favorite Christmas present in 2008 was the scrapbook Brent and Becky created and gave me. They printed out all 52 letters, added a few photos to the album, and wrapped it in hours of work and love. What a treasure! Someday, I thought, I’d like to publish this book, at least for the family. Maybe I’ll get the nerve to search for a publisher.
Much of the content of the letters centers on faith and family. For example, I want her to know the Bible’s definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman until death parts them. I have no idea what her culture will define as marriage twenty or more years from now, but I want her to know that Grandma believed Scripture, not just about marriage, but about life. So I wrote about obeying her parents, thanking God for the heritage she has in her extended family, about our prayers for her as a covenant child. In my April letters I wrote about the warm yellows of forsythia bushes and the hyacinths bursting forth in pinks and lavenders. That led me to the Creator of all these beautiful plants.
Family gatherings allowed her to meet her Great Grandma Wolfe, so I told her about this missionary who played the organ, painted, and spoke fluent Japanese in her younger days. And every time I left our granddaughter, my next letter told about the ache in my heart, about the love I have for her. I gave her the family history of her middle name, told her I prayed for her sensitive tummy to get better, for shots not to make her out of sorts. She can’t read my letters now, but there’s coming a day!
One goal of my letter writing involves challenging today’s grandparents to pass on more than china and silver to the next generation. I call my idea intentional grandparenting. What do you really know about your grandparents? The only information I know about my paternal grandmother is that she sang and had strawberry blond hair like mine. Because she died before my parents even met, I have only seen a hand full of photos of her. How sad.
These days, when he’s not out shoveling snow, my husband spends much time researching Wolfe genealogy. One of his best “finds” is a journal written by a relative who watched, the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Yes, people stood on the shore as observers during the Civil War. Another Civil War letter, written by a fellow soldier, tells Dave’s paternal great-great grandmother what he knows of her husband’s death near Ft. Monroe, Virginia. He describes Albert Weaver as he faced death as one having “a cheerful Christian resignation to the will of God.”
I know that technology allows us to Facebook and Twitter one another moment by moment these days, but I still plan two more letter writing projects that will begin this year. One of our sons and his wife expect their second child any day now. Our younger son and his wife expect their first child in August. And, yes, both children will have a year’s worth of letters from Grandma Wolfe.