family

Correspondence

Letter writing has been a part of my life since I could write words to form sentences. Handwritten notes received in the mail are one of the many delightful components of life and human relationships. When I was helping my mother pack her house a few months ago, I discovered a small box that read "Dad's Correspondence". Inside was a letter his sister, my Great Aunt Emily, wrote to him. It was a letter I'd heard about. Other people in the family knew about it and also wanted to read it. 

IMG_4398.JPG
IMG_4397.JPG

I love so many things about this letter. Starting with the envelope, it was before ZIP codes, which started in 1963. Before that, there were postal zones. Salt Lake 5 and Chicago 23. That she addressed it to his office and wrote "personal" at the bottom is also endearing to me. 

The letter is postmarked June. She opened letting him know she hadn't heard from him since Christmas, and that she was worried about him. He was going through a divorce. Who knows how often was their normal communication.

The other best part was when she mentioned he should come for a visit with the girls [my mother and aunt]. She told him Fred, her lawyer husband, said he should consult his lawyer first. She had a sense of humor, but I don't think she was trying to be funny. She authentically expresses guilt, love, and compassion.

I love it because it's a window into her life, his life, and their relationship with each other. In 1960 they were in their mid-50s. Emily's children were grown already and about to start having children, Walter had two teenagers. They hadn't lived in the same city for 30 years. 

What I love most about this letter is that it is so clear from the communication that she truly loved her brother, and she was willing to do whatever she could to help him when he was suffering. 

utah

Well Utah is a special place. Mountains are enchanting and striking. Make me feel grounded and connected to the planet. It’s fascinating to see evidence of geologic history, hundreds of millions of years. And they are still evolving!

People ask me if I miss New York. Like thousands of other single women who live in the City, I thought of New York as my boyfriend. Who needs a boyfriend when you have New York. Now New York is my ex-boyfriend, or my boyfriend at the time. An extraordinary run we had, 7 years. With any ex-boyfriend, I can reminisce fondly about the experience and acknowledge it was time to move on. I didn’t see it coming, it was like a switch flipped. I went from being a person who couldn’t imagine living anywhere but New York to become a person who was starving to live in a place where I could be connected to family and nature. While New York is a magical place, it’s magical out here, too. 

Many were surprised when I announced where I planned to move. To me, it wasn’t a far stretch. My grandfather and his sister Emily were very close. She moved out to Utah from Chicago after her husband finished law school. It was the early 1930s. He had asthma, and his doctor told him to move to Utah or Arizona. I’m so grateful they chose Salt Lake City. It is an extraordinary place. When my mother was growing up, her family would drive to Utah from Chicago (before the interstate she always points out) to visit her aunt, uncle and two cousins who were 11 and 13 years older than she.  My grandfather used to spit out the window while he drove. Once they arrived, it was always an exceptional time. As an adult she continued to make the trip out. By this time her cousins were married and starting their families. After my parents married, they continued the traditional visits. They did so the summer before I was born. As the story goes, they had such a wonderful time, they decided to name me Emily after my mom’s aunt. 

Emily and Emily

Emily and Emily

When I was in college it occurred to me that I may have been conceived in Utah. It makes a good story, anyway. 7 years after I graduated while at dinner in Chicago with my dad, my boyfriend at the time (not New York) forced my dad to confirm whether or not I was in fact conceived in Utah. I was mortified then heartbroken. It wasn’t until after I moved here, I realized I was already an embryo! That means I had all the influences swirling around when I was just beginning. My grandfather and his sister were 78 and 76 when I was born. Opa died when I was 8. We never lived in the same city, so I didn’t get to know him well, even with annual visits. Emily died when I was a senior in high school. I may have only had two visits with her, the last one a couple of years before she died. 

With one of my second cousins, I organized a reunion for our family last August. We had talked about it for a few years after connecting on Facebook.  None of us is getting any younger. My parents are in their late 60s now and my mom’s cousins are in their 80s. I hadn’t seen them in 22 years. I don’t even feel old enough for that to be a fact. We’re all grown up. All of my second cousins have families of their own. Some of their kids are in college. One of the most unique things about being here is that we range in age from 7 to 83. How wonderful.