Newsday reader Eileen Melia Hession of Long Beach is thankful to her mother for the gift of memories in a box that she left to Hession and her sisters. In an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, Hession describes her treasured keepsakes:
My mother always said, "The greatest gift I ever gave you girls is each other." My four sisters and I know how true that is.
But in terms of concrete gifts, what I appreciate most is something I found while cleaning her house after she passed away in 2006. It was a box filled with her letters.
We are five sisters with 12 years between the oldest and youngest. Every few years Mom wrote a description of each of us at that particular age. It's a bit disconcerting to read about my 8-year-old self as, "a bit lazy about making her bed." But how wonderful to read that Mom thought I was "happy and thoughtful and so good with the baby," at that same age. It's fun to read Mom's thoughts about my sisters as well. It always leads us to a "Mom always liked me best" competition -- and we can point to the truth in her very own handwriting.
Other things in the box include letters from my dad during World War II. He describes Italy with such passion that I wish he could have revisited a place he seemed to love, despite the war.
There are diaries that detail trips my parents took. I can see the sheep pastures in Ireland, taste the bangers and mash in London, and smell the fish market in San Francisco as my mom experienced them.
She saved letters from friends and relatives that contain bits of stories I wish I knew enough to ask about while there was still time. I think she kept every letter I wrote to her from college and postcards from trips I took. I relive my own long-forgotten experiences, in my own words.
Mom has letters dating back to the '40s from her aunt in Key West and her cousins in County Cork. She has the telegram that arrived when her sister eloped, programs from class plays, yellowed newspaper photos depicting friends experiencing their 15 minutes of fame.
There are hundreds of pages that introduce me to so many sides of my Mom that I love learning about. I am going to savor it all, slowly.
I feel sorry for the next generation, with all their tweeting and texting they will never find a treasure such as this.