Saturday, September 11, 2004

primary documents

Three years ago, I was pouring a cup of coffee when a friend called and told me to turn on the television.

I spent my "finger rest time" reading a cache of letters I just discovered. I knew that my grandfather was a prolific letter writer in the last years of his life, but I was startled to discover that a three inch think file contained letters from a single year; as his handwriting was even worse than mine, it's just as well that most of them are typed. There are plenty of the obligatory descriptions of the weather, and fun musings as to the cuteness, sunniness and intellectual brilliance of his grandchild (cough, cough) but mostly the letters describe a trip he has just taken or his plans for the next one. "Trip" is a bit of an understatement; the letter on top muses the pros and cons of four weeks in Australia and a presentation he just saw about Nepal. He thoroughly enjoyed his week in Stratford-on-Avon, and though he laughed at the tourist trap elements, I think he secretly enjoyed them, too.

I vaguely remember Grandpa, and knew that he did a great deal of traveling, but it's been fun to read "a year in the life." Later this afternoon I may tackle the 30+ handwritten postcards. I note that this 8th grade drop-out, the son of illiterate parents, has excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Words Written: three-hundred and twenty
Lessons Graded: two

I'm taking the pain pills, even though they make me groggy, so I'm a little nervous about grading in this state.


Rachel said...

Three years ago, I was teaching a business writing class.
I still have dreams that I have to get a class out of a building that's been attacked, on fire, or somehow suddenly dangerous.
Those alternate with the standard teaching anxiety dreams of forgetting where the class is, forgetting to make a syllabus, and suddenly remembering, halfway throug the semester, that I was supposed to teach a class I had completely spaced--and they were all in the classroom, waiting for me to give them a midterm. I wonder, would it make students feel better knowing their teachers have test-giving anxiety? Or that I'm always the last one out of the classroom when it's under attack?

Anonymous said...

What a lovely discovery. :) Though two of my grandparents are still alive, and another lived to see me into adulthood, my paternal grandfather died when I was just 10. I wish that he'd lived long enough for the adult me to know him.

Joe said...

Herself's family has a marvelous diary from one of the grandmothers. We've actually considered digitizing it and getting it a web home as a slice-of-life record of the 1920s through 40s or 50s. (Between the Queen of Web Design and LibraryMan-In-Law, it's kind of surprising it hasn't happened yet... sadly, our secret identities take a lot more upkeep than you'd think.)