In sorting through my mom’s archives I’ve slowed down to sort/explore/enjoy what must be a 6’ high stack of correspondence dating back to 1979. Mom kept copies of the letters she sent to others, often stapling their letters to hers. Converting feet of paper into reams (500 sheets) of paper roughly amounts to more than 10,000 pieces of paper, many of them typed on both sides. While I cannot fathom reading that many sheets of correspondence, much what I have read contain gems that bring my mama’s brilliance back into sharp focus. It causes me to look at the two people she was, and consider, with wrenching sadness, the transition from one to the other.
Reading mom’s journey with a dear friend’s medical choices, through their ultimately demise, was expected and yet so many crevices were filled in… Mom always had advice, and the friend grew increasingly defensive over the few years between diagnosis and death. One was angling for the survival the other, the other needed to be right to the death. Learning how much I disappointed mom when I left the Island to begin my life with my first husband, again not unexpected yet hurtful, and then to read her understanding when I left that marriage, was a rollercoaster ride. To be shamed and understood at such a deep level over a 17-year period in a 5-hour document review session was intense.
There are letters from people I think I should know but don’t. Letters from people I can’t get a hold of to share that mom had died. Letters that make me laugh (a lot!), or cry. It is an amazing thing to hold my mother’s written social and professional construct in my hands.
The Getty wants all of these things, but not until it’s safe to fly… I have time to sit with these 10,000 plus pages and glean their treasures, lessons, and wit.