Mom's letter-writing legacy tugs my heartstrings
October 14, 2020
This was about the time each year of my mother’s life that she started working on her Christmas letters.
Something about the leaves changing and the nights growing cooler threw her into her annual mammoth letter-writing project.
She loved having a teetering stack of envelopes ready to place in the hands of the United States Postal Service on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving.
In her prime, that required more than 250 stamps and several refills of her beloved fountain pen.
That pen was one of her most treasured possessions, and one thing that her three rambunctious offspring were allowed to touch only under the strictest supervision.
It was filled using a tiny hypodermic needle (“No, officer, really — we only use it for ink”) dipped into glass jars of ink procured at Odom Office Supply in Portales.
My mother wrote the best letters.
They were newsy and chatty, page after page filled with her meticulous handwriting. Whatever long ago elementary school teacher who taught her cursive must have smiled down from heaven.
It may be hard to imagine now, in an era of electronic communication and instant gratification, but she started writing letters in mid-October, moving through her address book alphabetically, and collecting them in a shoebox, not to be mailed for another six weeks.
For many years, she also made sure there was a family photo card to enclose.
I famously ruined the 1966 edition by refusing to cooperate with my brothers as the three of us perched in the blazing sun on sizzling giant rocks (because why else would I have been wailing in that photo?) next to the river in Santa Rosa.
In my mother’s later years, I did penance for my photo-destroying sins by taking on the authorship of an annual Christmas letter to share the highlights of her year (with clever titles such as THE TOP 10 REASONS WE WON’T BE SENDING A CHRISTMAS LETTER).
The idea was to simplify this task for my mom and save her time.
It almost worked except for one thing: She was born to write long letters, come hell or high water, and so she did.
Starting about now.
Her legacy tugs at my heartstrings.
I may need to unearth the fountain pen and find some small children to arrange on a boulder.
Betty Williamson never mastered cursive or posing for photos. Reach her at: