Flashback One: Prologue, January 29, 1965

Jan 29, 1965

Dear Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad Bonesteel, Granny, Grandmommy and Granddaddy, Jan and Gene, Nannie, Chuck, Steve and Dick, Gery and Bob, Bob Kristin and Bobby III, Jim and Donna and any other interested parties!

Wow, that’s a word salad of relatives.

The cast: my maternal grandparents, my paternal grandparents, my mother’s grandmother, my dad’s paternal grandparents, my great aunt and her husband, my dad’s first cousins and their two boys, and my mom’s sister, brothers, and their spouses and children.

Many of the older people weren’t around by the time I got old enough to have actual memories. I met my mom’s grandmother once, but although I heard stories of my Great Uncle Gene, I never met him. Kristin (mom to my two oldest cousins) and Donna didn’t stay in the family, but Kristin and my grandmother stayed close friends until my grandmother’s death.

Relevant detail: My Great Aunt Janny was a warm, good-natured woman. Alice, my paternal grandmother, was what’s colloquially known as A Piece Of Work, and she never made a secret of the fact that she’d had a totally different wife in mind for my dad. He remained largely unaware of this fact (having never had any interest in the alternative woman in question), but my mom sure didn’t.

At last I think this letter may get finished and on its way. This will be my third time typing it, something that takes a few uninterrupted hours which are understandably rare around here….

Elizabeth is now sitting up. She’s getting to be more and more of a person. I rather expect that in the coming six months she will learn to make her presence felt and her wants known. She has started giving Nicholas the evil eye when he grabs something far from her. One of these days she’ll grab back!

There’s an old photograph of me in my crib with my brother peering over the rail, a frown on his face. He was likely just curious, but it’s an evocative snapshot, and I have to confess my mother’s predictions about our future relationship weren’t wrong. I idolized him, which of course meant I was morally obligated to needle him every chance I got. Any early toy-grabbing he might have done was entirely justified.

The following will be the letter I wroteto you all earlier in the month. Please try to be patient with my typing. I can’t erase with this process so I’ll just have to be as careful as possible.

Yes, I’m preserving typos. The woman had to type this letter three times.


Typewriters have been gone for a while, but I remember them well. My first typewriter–the one on which I banged out all kinds of horrid small-child fiction–was a manual, with a red/black ribbon. I never bothered with whiteout; I just overtyped really hard.

The tools I use affect my prose. Until I had a computer in my own home (long after I was out of college), I preferred longhand; something about physically forming the letters fed my imagination. When I was young, the typewriter was Turbo Writing, and more often than not I’d start with longhand and transcribe. (I didn’t learn touch typing until high school, but I was a pretty fast four-fingered typist.)

Y’all with your newfangled computer thingies have no idea what it was like to strive for perfection, only to be thwarted by a sticky space bar. At some point, you just stare at the typo on your formerly pristine page, and say “Eh, close enough.”

I’ve redacted most of the stuff about my brother, but it’s worth noting he’d just turned 2.┬áMy dad stepped up a lot when I was older, but at this point he was your stereotypical 1950s “I’ll kiss them when they’re off to bed” dad. My mother did everything for us.

And somehow still managed to type a five-page Christmas letter three times over. I will never, no matter how hard I try, be as organized as she was.

Of course, my mother-in-law’s a lot nicer, so maybe it’s a fair trade.


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