Wednesday 31 May 2017

Letters home to Mother

I have been reading letters from Roald Dahl to his mother in the book, Love From Boy edited by Donald Sturrock. He wrote often: while at boarding school, working in East Africa, and his time in the RAF in the first couple of years of World War Two (as far as I got as I draft this blog post). His early letters weren't always truthful while at boarding school and were possibly under thread of being read by the schoolmasters perhaps watching over his shoulder as the letter was written. In adulthood in East Africa, he wrote about gambling, and drinking lots and lots plus some of the language used included swearing. In the RAF came in Iraq, he wrote about bodily functions - men worried about being bitten on the balls by scorpions while squatting over the toilet bucket and were relieved after inspection to have been a meal for yet another bloody sand fly. 

This has gotten me wondering what subjects do you broach in letters to your parents? I have only written a few letters to my mother and in no way did I broach the subject of intimate relations or even periods. My mother's eyes aren't fully wonderful nor are here hands thrilled to have arthritis, so reading and writing letters isn't easy for her. Do people still write to their parents? My mother has a habit of telephoning when I am in the bathroom or up to my elbows in washing up water. Telephones need both parties to be available at the same time - that's why I like letters, because you both read/write in your own time. E-mail is an option but for my mother, she isn't interested in the technology these days. I barely read/write emails myself these days. So, for her, it is the telephone that connects us but we don't speak about those taboo subjects.

Edit - I have now finished the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A bit of one letter especially made me laugh:

There is a large bridge near my house, which was designed by Theodore Roosevelt, and on each corner there is an enormous bronze statue of a bison. Now someone has painted the prominent personal organs of these bison bright red, so that everyone who crosses the bridge stops and roars with laughter. It is a very fine sight and I don't know who's going to take the paint off. You can't really have a fireman or someone leaning a ladder against the animal, ascending it and solemnly scraping the paint off the penises. A crowd would gather and laugh at him, and photographers from a bawdy newspaper would get a wonderful photograph. 

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful. Both the references to the book, and your sharing. A very interesting intimate topic for any of us who enjoy writing.

    I tried enabling my mother to have the ability to text and email, but she just could not get the hang of it and it was not long before we went back to phone calls and letters. She wants to call me daily, for a few minutes, just to check in and see what's going on even though there really isn't new news very often, and it can be a little bit difficult to sound interested in generalities sometimes... but I know how much it means to her to talk and connect. Otherwise she is lonely. She doesn't often hear from my only other sibling. She is a widow and hears from her siblings even less.

    But I sent her letters monthly just because it makes her feel special. Never on a predictable schedule, because I like to surprise her. Sometimes it is just a postcard and other times it is a card and occasionally a 4-5 Page Letter. None of the news in the letter is something she didn't already know, because we talk so often, but it really makes her feel special.

    Somebody I'll get all these letters back, and I will love them. She doesn't write back often cause her hands hurt (much like your Mom) but when she does it means as much to me too.

    As for sensitive topics, we tend to save that for in-person conversations. We are a very open family, topics like periods and intimacy do come up in conversation. I imagine if I did not see her as often and we did not have phone calls, we certainly would talk about things like periods and relationships and intimacy in letters, because that is the nature of our relationship, and the culture of our family does not include embarrassment over things that are "facts of life."

    I have thought many times that our letters are one day going to seem a lot more vanilla than our conversations ever were. Ha! I guess this is good since it'll be the grandkids that'll be reading them someday. And they certainly won't want to know about the details. Hahaha