Friday, 26 July 2013

Family Letters and Strange Dreams

Last night I had some very strange dreams, from leaving my daughter in the middle of the busy city to catch a train home on her own to finding letters that were written by my paternal grandmother. I just knew that I had to blog about the latter.

Freda wrote to me frequently when I left England in 1978 to live in Australia with my mother. She always wrote at least one page, even when she was in hospital (which was often) and she sent cards to my mother and I every year, without fail. I wish I had kept more of her letters to me but over time I threw many of them out (my way of downsizing during my frequent moves from house to house in my twenties). It was only the last letters that she wrote me, before her eyesight failed her completely, that I had the good sense to keep. What a relief, I did something right then.

My letters from Freda (1990-1993)

When my great-aunt Joan passed away in 2005, her son Terry sent me some letters and cards, written by my grandmother Freda to Joan and my great-uncle Billy, which he found amongst his mother's personal effects.

When I woke up from my dream this morning I had a strong sense that Freda was trying to communicate something to me. In the dream I opened a drawer and took out some papers. Among the handful of papers were letters and I immediately recognised the handwriting as my grandmother's and started to cry. My tears were of happiness and relief that I had found her letters but sadness as well because I really miss her. One of the letters I held in my hand was typed and was dated 1933. It talked of all sorts of historical facts about pre-war threats and her feelings on the subject. I folded it up and made a mental note to read it in greater detail later. The second letter is more vague in my waking memory but it was definitely her handwriting and on seeing it, I burst into tears. Then I woke up.

Freda, about 1933

Here is a transcript from a letter that my grandmother Freda wrote to my great-aunt Joan in 1961. My cousin Robert was a newborn and she was writing to send her congratulations:

Dear Joan & Billy,
Many Congratulations on the birth of your little Son. I am so glad it all went off well & that you are both well.
I am writing to your home address Joan, as I don't know how long you stay in Hospital. I bet you felt important being waited on, its nice for a change, but I expect you're like me you rather be up & about.
Julian [my cousin, who was eighteen at the time] seemed quite pleased to tell the news to everyone, you'll have plenty to think about now.
I'm sorry I haven't written before, but time flies & I haven't been too well with my legs, when it comes to tea-time I can't do another thing.
We shall look forward to seeing him now.
Love from us all,

On the subject of family letters, I also have a letter that was written to my great-aunt Muriel from my great-uncle Billy in 1941. Muriel's first husband died suddenly, aged 31, and the news was devastating to the say the least (They had only been married four years and they had no children).

Dear Muriel,
Very sorry to hear bad news received from Joan by telegram: it does seem so cruel after you being so very happy with Jack but I suppose God has a time for us all.
Well Muriel I will never forget the happy evenings we three had at No. 15 and I'm sure wherever Jack is he will never forget either. Now Muriel old girl if there is anything I can do for you anytime, don't be afraid to ask. Myself & Joan will willingly do anything, anytime. You don't forget that cause I mean it....If you feel like taking little Terry out on your own, Joan would only be too pleased. I know you like children & little Terry so don't be afraid to say so. (Now can you keep a secret Muriel, don't say anything to anybody, not a word. Don't even let Joan know. Promise? Well we are expecting an extra in the family. Sometime next June [1942, which would have been Julian]. Now promise not to breath a word...

I love his closing salutation:
Yours for always,
Your loving brother, 

Brother and Sister: Billy & Muriel, 1935

I can't begin to express just how much I truly miss Freda. She was such a lovely woman and a fabulous grandmother to me and my sisters.


  1. Lovely memories, Deb.. How lovely to have these letters. A great link with loved ones. I do so much like receiving and writing letters, something so special about such a personal 'gift' of a moment in time.

    1. Thank you kindly for your comment, it means a lot. xx

  2. Such a poignant post Debs.

    1. Thank you very much Ann, your comment really touched me. xx