Monthly Archives: March 2013

smell of coffee

I’ve been reading someone else’s letters. It’s true. This might sound a bit like a confession if I hadn’t purchased the letters at a local antique store.  When I first came across the stack of papers tied with a sweet pink ribbon, one of the women working behind the counter gave me the background scoop. It appears the letters were a part of an estate sale in south Minneapolis and the original family had moved.


To be honest, I did feel a little strange purchasing someone else’s letters but knowing my intention was purely research for brown ink, it didn’t feel too terrible. Had I known I would soon be immersed in the life of a young women named Joyce I might have hesitated. But before I knew it I was reading the details of her everyday routines, living overseas as an Officer in the United States European Command. She was stationed in Bavaria and Munich when not traveling all around Europe in her “dandy” Renault with her best buddy Bea. For over two and a half years Joyce wrote letters to her family with wonderful elaborations of her life. From the cost of her new radio (it was a Philco for $19.95) to the place setting at an elegant dinner, Joyce used lovely cursive penmanship to communicate to her family her experience in Europe.

photo#2Although her letters were filled with tales of her exciting explorations, Joyce often referred to the smell of coffee and taste of custard pie she missed back at home. In her final letter before returning back to south Minneapolis, she asked her parents to listen for the telephone on March 6th when she planned to phone from New York, her layover stop on her way back to home. And that was the end of the life I came to know of  sweet Joyce.

I don’t think the kinds of details Joyce wrote in her letters are the ones people mention on the phone or in an email any longer. The kind of descriptions regarding a party, a meal, the cost of a radio, specifically what you miss about home…these bits are not communicated to others like they used to be. Maybe people have already moved on to the next “thing” in their lives. Or have too much on their plate to give it a second thought. Joyce’s letters remind me to not only look at finer details but share these thoughts in writing with people who I love and appreciate, if not simply for myself.