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.

8 thoughts on “ smell of coffee

  1. julie

    so, so great. what a nice find! pink ribbon and all! the smell of coffee and custard pie is a wonderful image, too. thanks wendy!

  2. Jeannine

    This is so sweet and inspiring. Though we don’t share those details in letters anymore, it’s a good reminder to do so. Thanks for posting. Love you!

  3. Tasya

    I loved everything about this post, Wendy. Especially the part about her best buddy being “Bea”. I love to think that such letters offer insight into daily life experiences of the time. Bravo to you, Brown Ink and reminding us no matter how trivial to “put it in writing.”

  4. vicki

    love your post. I have a bunch of postcards and letters that I bought from an estate sale in my neighborhood. I too, read someone else’s letters. They must have been important, because they are put in scrapbooks. I am going to dig them out and share them with you.

  5. Cheryl Hauser

    Well done, my darling daughter. This is truly a special find and a unique way to reasearch brown ink. MOM


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