My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1
A few weeks ago, in preparation for the arrival of my family for Resurrection Sunday lunch, I was busy dusting - the move things, dust under kind of dusting, not the quick swipe kind. On the top of my great-grandmother's’ wardrobe sits an old box my father used to store seeds. Now it plays house to letters and cards of all shapes and sizes, from my great-grandparents, mother, aunt, and children.
The box itself is special. The picture on the front has faded with time, but it carriers nostalgia like the fragrance of spring through an open window. I remember it sitting in my father's workshop, not nearly as full with seeds as it is now with letters. The box made a good landing spot for the seeds that would eventually find their way to the garden behind our house. The inside of the lid is decorated by some mischievous hand - I couldn’t tell you whose.
But the letters and cards inside, Ah, what a treasure they are to me. Most are from my grandmother, Ruth Victoria Martin Teeter. She was gifted, both artistically and musically. She also had a tremendous love for all nature. She shared her knowledge in a way that a young child found easy to understand. She suffered from a muscular disease, Myasthenia Gravis (MG). Today people with this disease generally live a full life, but at the time my grandmother suffered, medical science had few remedies. Physical activities easily exhausted her and muscle weakness caused her to give up driving as well as playing the violin for the Charlotte Symphony. She did not allow the loss of either to stop her. She begin giving music lessons and, in later life, had her art work displayed in a Charlotte gallery. Letters were her window to the world, she kept up correspondence with many friends and family through the years, including some in Japan that she would never meet.
Time spent with her was magical. She always had some interesting gift or item to share with her grandchildren and when you were at her home, you felt like you were the most important person in her world. We would go on walks through the neighborhood and she would teach me the names of the different trees based on their leafs. Or, we might stroll down the hill behind her house into the woods; she had created a spot she called her “thinking spot”. Two concrete mushrooms marked the spot and served as seats. These same mushrooms now grace my rose garden, one as a seat and the other, turned upside down, is a pedestal for my bird bath.
She lived scarcely three miles from my home and, though I saw her frequently, I received letters on a regular basis. Her letters shared the simple things she saw from her window each day - nature. Whether it was a bee, squirrel, or bird, she relayed their daily activity and the importance it played to the world in a manner that entertained and taught the child on the receiving end. Re-reading her letters puts a smile on my heart, I can hear her voice and see the expression on her face. I knew she believed in my ability to be anything I wanted to be, no matter what career I was interested in at any particular moment, she would encourage me. She taught me to knit when I was in elementary school and later, when I mentioned secretarial work, she gave me my first typewriter and taught me to type. As a teenager, when I was interested in journalism, she encouraged me there as well.
To be honest, I must add that her letters could also scold, but these I received later, when as a young adult she believed I needed admonishing - and I did. Words, whether spoken or written, have a tremendous amount of power. The tongue that welds them, or the pen that writes them, should always be used with care and prayer. All these years later, reading over the cards and letters, reminds me of the rich blessing of family, especially grandparents, and what an impact they have on their grandchildren. The picture below is Ruth with her first great-grandchild, my daughter, Michelle. My Uncle Edwar looks over her shoulder. So many precious memories.