I have written before on the subject of letters from my grandparents and what they meant to me when I received them and what they mean to me now. I took one out of my writing box – a blue leather case I got for my 13th birthday (how I had longed for it and still use today, along with my sewing basket with my school number sewn onto the handle) – to refer to for my blog last month and I kept it out and re-read it and went to look for the others I had received from the same grandfather during my first year living in Izmir. It struck me that here was a man 0f 98 whose life spanned a century from the age of Victoria to that of Elizabeth II, who had witnessed two world wars and much else besides, yet was still quite able to connect with me and what I was doing and relate it to his own experiences. The sentences sing with interest and encouragement. Here is just one example: “One never forgets one’s first sojourn in the East, near, middle or far. My nine months in India, 2 years in Egypt, and most memorable, 9 months in Palestine were exquisite experiences. You have down well to take the opportunity. I sometime [sic] think to have done that, i.e., to have taken the opportunity is the supreme point of living…”
Later in the same letter he goes on to observe how, in Izmir, I am surrounded by ‘some of the most memorable bits of the ancient world. All of them at least ‘half as old as time’ and ends with his favourite exhortation to me to remember: “Unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna…”, an exhortation that set Ben and me off on many a journey to look for the seven churches in Revelations. One letter then, which began with history and ended with the Bible and along the way included a little phrase that has made me prouder than anything: “Stick to writing, you have a flair that way and it repays as a pleasant exercise.” I am trying to, Grandpa, a little late in the day, but I am.
How lucky to have a cache of letters such as these, always my leitmotif as readers of this blog will know, and a source of endless memories and inspiration as well as a wonderful golden thread joining me to my grandparents and their history – the history of our family. There are more letters, and from my other grandparents too, and yet I wonder how future generations, in this age of disposable communication, will ever be able to feel that same golden thread linking them to their pasts?