|The view from the beach at Louisa’s camp/photo credit Lac du Bois/Hackensack|
And who she is, until mid-July, is Élodie – that’s her French name at camp.
|Élodie avec ses amies de la cabine/photo credit Lac du Bois/Hackensack|
|A page from a story she wrote and illustrated for a class project|
|Une lettre d’Élodie|
When I reread Louisa’s letters, I picture her in her cabin, or sitting on the dock, thinking about us, and it makes me feel closer to her. The things she chooses to mention – or not mention – give me insight into what she was thinking and doing at the time she wrote the letter. The letters remind me of the old serial stories that authors (like her namesake, Louisa May Alcott) used to write for newspapers. From the three letters we have received so far, I’ve learned that Élodie earned a bead for successfully taking on the challenge to speak only French on her first full day at camp; I have been introduced to the characters of her cabinmates and her two adored cabin counselors, the one who writes Harry Potter fan fiction and the one with a beautiful singing voice; and I have heard tales of delicious food and fun events, like a dance on the beach. I can hardly wait for the next installment, to see where the story leads!
In return, I’ve sent her letters chronicling the events she’s missed at home, from the unexpected (the tree falling down and crushing our playset in the aftermath of the flash flooding) to the ordinary (her dad’s play rehearsals, our dog Waffles being cute).
I know from reading old family letters that the ordinary details are the ones that become meaningful years later simply because they provide a record of what was ordinary for one person, or for one generation. For example, from a letter my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, wrote to his mother, Rebecca, in the summer of 1915 on the back of a band concert program, I learned that my grandfather and great-uncle had recently returned from a visit to Rebecca’s home where they had enjoyed spending time with their cousin, Oliver; I also learned that G. Oliver and his wife, Islea, were feasting on the bounty of their garden that summer, which included peas, beans, potatoes, radishes, lettuce and onions.
Yes, life 100 years ago was different, but yes, in many important ways, it hasn’t changed much. Family connections feed us just as food does, and are so vital to our growth. We can’t always understand or appreciate this until we are separated from those we love.
|A picture postcard my grandfather Ronald sent to his grandmother, Rebecca Riggs, in 1910.|
I can’t predict the future or do much to influence societal changes in communication. What I can do, though, for at least a few more weeks, is write to my daughter at camp and eagerly anticipate receiving letters in return.