Friday, May 11, 2007

The Letters

A letter is a good way to go somewhere
without moving anything but your heart.
-Phyllis Theroux

I honestly don't know where they came from. It was around Christmas 2005 - during the demolition of part of Freeman House - that they appeared. Faded, folded letters tied into a neat bundle. They were, that year, 75 years old. I found them outside on the ground where a wall used to be, waiting for me. I like to suppose they had been tucked into that wall for safe-keeping or hiding... not meant to be seen for decades... if ever. Regardless, there they were, patiently waiting to be scooped up and rescued from the elements.

They are all addressed to Miss Freeman. Between 1928 and 1930 - her early years in this house - she was apparently courted by two young men: Vannie and Ernest. It doesn't appear as though Vannie knew about Ernest, but Ernest... well, he appears to be the wise one. Both appear to be smitten.

I know little about Miss Freeman. I've never seen a picture of her, though I've been told with my dark hair and fair skin I could be her twin. I know she was industrious. Resourceful. In the very same room that Miss Freeman used to take in washing and ironing, I sit and sew for my Etsy shop. I know Marie was feisty. That she fought for what she loved, including this house. I surmised that because the grounds were peppered with roses and hydrangeas we would have shared a love of favorite flowers. But aside from the obvious... and the neighborhood hearsay... I know little about who Miss Freeman was.

I suppose that is one reason why these letters were a priceless find. "My Dearest One," begins a letter from Vannie dated May 7, 1930 - 77 years ago this week - "Will answer your letter that I received this afternoon. Began to think you had about forgot how to write.... Dear, try not to forget me Friday nite for I will be expecting you.... Be sweet until I see you."

Click letter to enlarge.

I wonder about the men who wrote these letters. I wonder what happened to them, and if they have descendants somewhere who would like to see them. I know Miss Freeman was married once, and briefly, to a man who turned out to love the bottle more than her. I've heard the story of her divorce.... how she put on her hat one morning as he stumbled in drunk, left without a word and walked 2 blocks to the courthouse and went in to see the judge. "Well, good morning, Marie," I'm told he said. "What can I do for you?"

"Judge, I want him out," she said. And I'll be dang if she didn't walk out of that courthouse with a divorce, storm back into this house and dump all his things on the lawn. She never remarried and never had children. (As I read these letters, I wonder if the Vannie in these letters is the drunk husband. He seems the type. I really need to do a marriage record search in the courthouse and see what I turn up.)

But until then I've debated on what to do with these letters. These precious, precious letters. Do I store them in a safety deposit box? Do I frame them and display them in the halls of Freeman House? Does the fact that Miss Freeman left them here... left them behind... mean that she intended them to stay here? Should I tuck them back inside the wall as she did?

These letters are amazing. But they also make me look at some of my own letters and think. I wonder if 75 years from now another dark-haired young girl will stumble across bundled letters from my one true love. And I wonder: what would she do with them?


Anonymous said...

OMG, girl! What an incredible find. I am trying really hard not to be completely jealous - that is the kind of find I love! I may have to make a trip to visit with you - and read those letters. :)

~Dawn~ said...

What a priceless, amazing find! If it were me, I would put them in a box and keep them. Maybe when you're old and gray you can tuck them away with some of your own letters for another to find. I love stories like that. My grandfather is 93 and I keep every letter he writes to me. They are part of his history and I will cherish his written words on paper forever. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I agree with Kelly, what a incredible find, almost like the ones on "If walls could Talk" show, I love the finds that are left behind! The more I learn about Freeman House, I"m convinced you were meant to be the one who saves it. Is Mrs. Freeman still alive? She may like to see them before they are returned the wall or framed, either way, I think they need to stay in the house. Maybe I can hitch a ride with Kelly to read those letters! lol

smilnsigh said...

How lovely a find.

Mmmm... what to do with them? Well, since she loved Freeman House. And since she left them there. I'd say that they should have a special place there, with you, in Freeman House.

And if you happen to sell Freeman House, sometime down the road, I hope the buyers will love it too. As you have. And as she did. And will continue to keep them, with the house, in some way. I'm sure you could convince them, to do so. :-)

Oh and yes! Phuulllleeeeze do a records search! I'm sure I'm not the only one who will be so happy to find out, what you can find, and tell us.


Anonymous said...

I love this blog, there's always something that captuers my attention and makes me think and that makes it stand out. I love that. I think I want your life! Bethanee

Anonymous said...

That is really a wonderful connection to the past and to the owner of the house. What a blessing!

I think it would make a really wonderful book! I would definitely read it!


ancient one said...

I know the feeling! We found post cards written by my husband's granny to her daughter (his mom) when she was first married. We had to read them with a magnifying glass. She really put a lot of news on those cards. You have a treasure!! I love the idea of displaying them with the house!

La Tea Dah said...

What a beautiful and romantic story. I know you will figure out the best use of those precious letters --- what a difficult choice.

Ann said...

Wow, Brin, the Freeman house must be hiding lots of other wonderful things. Those letters are the neatest! I love e-mail but there is something to be said of a hand-written letter.

Such a rich and interesting history. Thanks for sharing with us!

Betty said...

Oh, Brin, do find out if Vannie was her 'besotted husband...that's a wonderful story....she certainly was a feisty little lady....good for her....

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

That is a great find, Brin. How interesting to read about the lady that used to live in Freeman House & get a glimpse of what her life might have been like. Too bad she had a tough time with her marriage. It would be fun to find out more about her, so I hope you do.


Mary said...

There is nothing more precious than hand written letters from the past - your find is awesome Brin. You are meant to care for these letters and I think they must stay with The Freeman House. Perhaps you could copy a few of them and have them framed to display in a special place in your home - then the originals need a safe storage place, perhaps wrapped in archival paper to preserve them.
It will be so interesting to find out the details of the marriage - hope you can do this!

Alison said...

What a beautiful post.It's like you only read about this sort of thing(no pun intended) or see it in movies. This is real and I hope you enjoy every letter.
I also think they should stay with the house.

Sentimental Roses said...

How beautiful and romantic!! It is like they were meant for you to find!! A true treasure, thank you for sharing them with us!

Beemoosie said...

How precious!!! There is a show on HGTV entitled "If Walls Could Talk" that showcases precisely this sort of thing! I love those stories!