My husband and I decided to do a major cleaning of the basement in the home where we have lived for 16 years.
I found 2 things I never expected:
v-mail and beer.
Yes, I said "v-mail", not e-mail. I found 2 letters from 1944, written from my great-aunt Claudette Forand (a US army nurse) to my grandmother, Florence Forand, during World War II.
Her letters were dated in February of 1944 and said "somewhere in France." The letters spoke of mundane things-- getting 27 letters in one day after going with no letters for 2 months-- skipping supper in order to write letters home, things like that.
But for me, it was a huge history lesson. Both letters were folded into 1 v-mail envelope. It was tiny -- less than 3x5 (inches), and addressed simply to:
Mrs. Adrien Forand
. . . no "USA", no zip code. It was V -- for "victory Mail." And the letters themselves were clearly some kind of photocpy/facsilimile/whatever you had back then.
Both women are still alive, but my grandmother is in a nursing home and can't remember anyone now. (An aside: Back around 1999 or 2000 -- whenever Notes R5 shipped--I was invited to go on the "thank you trip" to the Bahamas, to Paradise Island, but I declined, and instead spent the 3 days with my grandmother, because she was not expected to live long. Seven years later, and she's still around! Go Gramdma!)
Anyway, I called my Aunt Claudette -- now 93, and still very much alive and "with it"-- she now lives alone on her farm in upstate New York. I told her I found the letters-- and she confirmed that "they" -- the US government, I guess-- kept the originals, and made little shrunk-down copies of v-mail and send them off in these little official envelopes. She said that "They" kept the originals for security reasons. Incredible how much the world has changed. Hum. Or has it?
I'm going to send the originals to Aunt Claudette so that she can put them in her memory book. She was thrilled to learn that some of her "original v-mail' has survived, and I was thrilled to be able to make her so happy. My great Aunt Claudette has been such a wonderful role model for me. She was a nurse, then an Army nurse in WWII, and returned to the USA to marry, have kids, and still be head nurse on a maternity ward. Simply by being herself, she taught me that a woman can have a passion for work, and still be a good wife and mother (and gardener-- one of my favorite memories of her is picking sugar snap peas from her garden, and eating them like candy that evening while we played cards).
Another aside that has to do with IBM -- one evening several years ago when I was visiting her, she mentioned that "the girl up the road" worked for IBM as well. She mentioned that "the girl" was retired already, but had done quite well at IBM. Then she went over to her roll-top desk and rummaged around her papers and pulled out a newspaper clipping about "the girl up the road" and shoved it into my hands -- "Maybe you know her?" she asked.
I didn't say anything at first -- there are three HUNDRED THOUSAND IBM employees. What are the chances that I'd know this "girl" from up the street?
Then I looked at the newspaper clipping. The "girl up the street" was FRAN ALLEN.
The FIRST WOMAN IBM FELLOW. EVER. THE HIGHEST RANK OF AN INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTOR THAT YOU CAN GET.
The farm girl up the street. Fran Allen. IBM Fellow.
And I had actually met her a few months ago at a conference. UNBELIEVEABLE.
Sometimes I worry-- if there a space/time continuum/votex thing that has me benefit from folks like Aunt Claudette, and IBM Fellow Fran Allen, and I am not living up to my potential?
Then we found the beer. In the basement. Right next to the V-mail. A batch of marzen home-brew that we had made in 1997 ( according to my husband's beer log). Five bottles that we'd forgotten existed. It was still pretty good. After a few of those bottles, I forgot to worry.
I think I'll go have another one right now :)