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Aunt Helen Writes a Letter

We don’t usually write personal letters to family and friends in the 21st century. I’m speaking of genuine personal letters, written in cursive style with a pen on stationery, not on lined three-ring notebook paper we tore from a pad. A personal letter that includes the day of the week and the date noted at the top right.

A personal letter that opens with a salutation: “Dear John” – wait, skip that. “Dear Paul,” or “Dearest Mary.”

A personal letter with the first sentence indented, and all first sentences of succeeding paragraphs indented. Personal letters concluded with words signifying affection or politeness, from “Love” to “Sincerely” or similar sentiments.

A personal letter enclosed in an envelope of matching paper, complete with a handwritten return address and the address of the recipient, a postage stamp placed just so, and slipped into a mail box.

Personal letters often conveyed significant personal experiences and events in the lives of family members or friends who lived in distant and sometimes not-distant places: the birth of a grandchild, the first day of kindergarten, a new job, illness, a death in the family.

Unless – unless the letter was from Aunt Helen.

Dear E__, B_____, S_____, and J____,

How are you? I am fine and Lester is too. Yesterday was really hot here. The radio said the temperature was 90 degrees, but it felt more like 92 or even 93. Lester was sweating so much that he had to change his shirt twice. He wore the shirt you sent for his birthday, the one with the vertical blue and white stripes, but he changed into a beige one which I wish he would give away. It has a coffee stain on the front which I can’t get out, even when I use 20 Mule Team Borax. Even Laddie refused to go outside, even though I knew he had to do his business. Finally Lester put the leash on Laddie’s collar, and practically dragged him out the door. He did his business in a hurry you can bet. We had a nice supper even though neither of us felt like eating in this heat. I made a pitcher of iced tea the way you make it E__, with lemon and orange and mint. It hit the spot. Lester has been pestering me to make liver and onions, so that’s what I made him yesterday. I think I overcooked the liver a little, but he didn’t complain. I cooked some green beans from the garden. My mother always used canned green beans which Bernard and me didn’t like the taste of. I salted the water I cooked them in, and then put butter on them before they got cold. We also ate those nice little red potatoes. The A&P had them on sale for 15 cents a pound. I was going to have Neapolitan ice cream and Hydrox cookies for dessert, but Lester took it out of the freezer too soon and it was just soup. We finished the package of Hydrox cookies. I put them on the grocery list for when Lester drives me to the A&P day after tomorrow. Well, that’s all the news from here for now. Love, Aunt Helen. P.S. did you listen to Jack Benny last Sunday? We did. Lester never misses it if he can help it. H.

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