Friday, June 04, 2010

Letters Home

I originally posted this story on Facebook but wanted to add it to my blog postings.  There are two parts. First is a small series of letters home which I recently came across in stuff from Mom's estate. The second part is about the room I was living in when I wrote the notes home.

To set the scene, in 1964 between my sophomore and junior years at RPI (now VCU and huge, but then small and housed for the most part in turn of the century former homes in Richmond's fan district), I stuck around for summer school. Here are some hilarious excerpts from letters home (the family was in the DC area and we did not make many phone calls. Dad couldn't bear to pay long distance rates and so communication was almost always by letter).

First letter: "Well, got settled, but I am about to go blind. I guess I'll go to Sears tomorrow and get a study lamp. Also do you have any curtains? I can use just cafe type. Never mind about the lamp. I found one in the maid's closet. I need a fan. Do you still have that tiny one? Are you using it? If not could you send it by someone sometime soon." The letter goes on to talk about my room. I was living in Scherer Hall, pictured above, on the second floor in a single room directly over the front entrance and overlooking Franklin Street. It had a sink in the closet which was almost as big as the room itself which was small but adequate. I hand picked the room, mostly for the sink. It was great to be able to brush your teeth or do your hand washing without going down the hall to the community bathroom. A friend had lived in it and was graduating and so it was available for summer school.

Second letter: "Don't you ever talk to me about writing again. Not only have I been looking for a letter but also my grades. You know I want them when they come. I'm about to die of heat because you haven't let me know about the fan. I'm giving a lovely view to all of Franklin Street because you haven't let me know about the curtains." (then there is chatter about different summer job interviews and how all of that is going. I was always on the edge of running out of money. In one later letter I tell about dropping a class, one I really liked too, because we had to buy a year's worth of supplies up front). Back to this letter, after suggesting that my parents take my sister and brother to see a current movie I think they will enjoy, it closes with, "Don't look for any more letters from me until I get one."

The third letter is very long and chats about classes and the continued job searches. And there is conversation about my regular year dorm mates that live across the street for the summer in an apartment in one of those old grand houses. It ends with, "PS PLEASE (lots of underlines) see about fan. It was only 100 degrees today and VERY (more underlines) humid. Love, Me"

There are many more letters. I wrote a LOT of letters and I think Mom saved them all. Everyone saved them. Donny's sister, Judy, sent us a bunch when she closed up former mother-in-law, Irene's, home. It seems that I wrote her many letters after the children started coming along telling her about what they were doing and so forth. Always a writer apparently, that's me.

The story about my room unfolds like this. One night I put some clothes in the closet sink to soak; but, I by mistake did not completely turn off the water. I was awakened the next morning by a frantic maid banging on my door. I lept out of bed into literally inches of water (no exaggeration). The maid tells me that there is water dripping from the ceiling of the parlor underneath my room. I truly do not remember how we got all the water off the floor. I somewhat remember getting a broom and sweeping the water into the hall, spreading it out until it was shallow enough to mop up. The maid took pity on me and helped. I was so worried that there would be a stain on the ceiling below, or that the electrical system would be compromised and I would be caught without a good explanation other than neglect. But no one was ever the wiser, thanks to the maid and my tell tale drip. My record collection which I had standing in a stack on the floor even survived without any warping.

Until next installment,