Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lambie (aka Jean), and a Happy Birthday to Dad

Originally published on MySpace on June 1, 2006.

"I do intend to share some of the more fashion-related snippets from letters with you all, as this whole things IS clothing related. But in reading these letters, I am gaining such a sense of who Jean's FAMILY was.......what family meant to them......I can't help but be moved by that , and in some ways that is becoming more compelling to me than the wardrobe!

I've mentioned that there are few letters in my possession from before 1935....I've got the wedding invitation, a few letters & postcards, but the bulk of it begins in '35. It appears her father worked in the coal a salesman or something similar. They were in Iowa, but he was transferred to Kentucky for most of 1935, to help a fledgeling or struggling office. He & Jeans mother (who's name I do not know yet, but her father was Thomas) rented an apartment there temporarily. Her mother didn't like it.....remarks often about how dirty it was, that everything was black all the, rugs, linens. She made some friends through church, they ate often at a place called the Blue Boar & at Bishops, went for rides, the Derby, played golf. By early 1936, Thomas had struck up a deal to open his own coal yard & get back to Iowa, a business he called Thos. Boone Fuels. I imagine that took some doing at the tail end of the depression!
Their letters are not unlike our emails to good friends and family today.....quick synopsis of a day or two's events, some gossip, some remarks about current fashions she had read of or seen while shopping....opinions on movies, operas & who they had listened to on the radio. She & her mother wrote each other at least a few times a week, and her father had a minor obsession going with tracking how quickly a letter sent "special" would arrive in Burlington Iowa from Loiusville Kentucky.........where it went through, what time it would arrive.
I will be creating a post or several at some point to show all the newspaper clippings her mother sent her....mostly fashion ads & articles, some politcal satire, some entertainment reviews. Some letters remark on fashions, colors, "new" things she had seen (shiny patent collars & matching shoes!!! I'd love to come across some of those...). But today as I read one set of letters (many envelopes contained a long letter from mom, and a brief one from her father), I was taken by the terms of endearment used. Simple, likely taken for granted at the time.....perhaps not, though it seems human nature to do so.....but now a wonderful glimpse into the love this family shared.
In a shorter than usual letter from her mother....she talks about her father's car breaking down on the way home, an ache in her lower back, mending a satin slip, "raiding the ice box to make dinner" which seems to be code for eating what's left in it before a grocery run, missing a ball game due to rain. At the end she signs it simply (but a different way than the other 50 or so letters I've read)......"Worlds of Love, Mother".
Her father's letter of the same date, September 11 1936, is much more to the point, a half page if that. He starts it simply.....
"Dear Lambie", then goes on to say
"Just got your letter 9 pm, rained in office this evening like the devil- going to recover that roof with paper and tar as quick as the sun comes out. Sold 17 tons today cash about $80. So dam tired- going right home to bed. Ma & Mrs R are out in the car. She will write you Sunday no doubt. Glad you are feeling good and hope Bob is too. Got to do something about your Ma's back- she can't get off her fanny ........Lots of Love & K's, Yours & Yours.....Dad"
What moved me was how real it was, not stilted or forced. Genuine. I imagine a family of 4 who had spent years all together, now scattered across the midwest, found great joy & comfort in these frequent letters.....looking forward to them, sending gifts to each other when they could, planning visits. In a time when a phone call was an extravagance....these papers were the way they kept their family TOGETHER. What purpose it really serves for me to have them now isn't quite clear to me, but I am very glad I do.......Ang"

That happens to be the exact place I'm at in re-publishing these older Jean themed blogs from 2006, and a poignant one at that to be reminded today of the love between a father and today is my Dad's birthday, the 2nd one without him here to tease about getting old, drink a beer with, laugh and complain about life with. I wanted to blog more in depth about this this morning but couldn't bring myself to do it. Its interesting that this entry from 3 years ago would be the one to speak, in a way, for me and Dad today.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Miss you.


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