Monday, November 11, 2013
A Warehouse, a Box, and a Love Story
With my recent pickin' adventures, I've certainly encountered all of our fair share of old, dusty, and forgotten treasures. I've dug through more dust and history in the last month than I have in my lifetime. I've pulled items of boxes that probably haven't seen the light of day in decades and it makes me feel good to bring some of these items back to life. Like I'm redeeming their worth in some small way.
One of the items that I stumbled across on the hunt for who knows what, was an old shirt box that was literally falling apart. Just the smell alone made my car smell like "dust and old people" as I text to my business partner. Upon first glance under the lid, I thought "oh cool, tons of old letters. I can probably do something with those." Approximately 30 seconds after I thought "I can do something with those" came the pressing feeling of "I need to find the family that these belong to." And thus began my hunt for living descendants of Robert & Norma Collins of Rockford, IL. Aka, my new love story.
With a slightly obsessive personality (there, I finally put it in writing), I spent my first night as temporary owner of these love notes just digging and reading and "ohhh"ing and "ahh"ing over each item I pulled out. I'm not sure that the Hubs enjoyed them as much as I did, but when I found a new Valentine's card from Robert or a Christmas card from Norma, I'd swoon a little bit and make Tim look at each one before I'd move on to the next.
What appears to be a long distance love story unfolding in 1930, grew into steady letters through the early '30's and became a marriage around 1936. In one letter, Robert shares his fear that Norma had decided not to write anymore, but alas, a few days letter, a letter arrived and his fears subsided. Whew! There are many "darlings" and "Always Yours". There are precious countdowns until they could see each other again and there are greeting cards for every major holiday without fail.
I think what struck me as the sweetest part was that even upon marriage, they still mailed each other sweet holiday cards. And often times, while still dating, Norma would pencil in on the outer envelope what gift had arrived in a letter from Robert. For the reader, it was even sweeter to know that a bracelet had arrived with the graduation letter. Way to go, Robert! It has truly been a love story unfolding before my eyes.
So, what to do with these letters? They just seem too personal, too special to keep them myself, although I'm already pretty attached so I know I'd treasure them. I just don't think that my new friend, Norma, would want me to hold onto them. They belong with their grandchildren or great grandchildren. Those letters need the chance to "come home". Knowing that much, I've spent quite a few hours digging into this family that I have completely no ties too. Thanks to Ancestry.com, I have created an entire Collins family tree and I can now trace their family back to the 1800's, with one side hailing from Ireland. This process has been sweet and crazy and pretty insane all at the same time as I'm pretty sure I now qualify as a borderline Collins family stalker.
I'm pretty sure at times over the weekend when I'd blurt out "so did you know Thomas was a 4 Star General and Chief of Staff?" I'd have to remind myself that these people aren't actually my family and therefore I need to first reference who the heck Thomas is when speaking out loud to the Hubs about my new findings.
However, with all of that to say, I do believe I have found two of their grandchildren living in Illinois! I'm just awaiting their response. Not so patiently. But it feels good to have a lead and I'm praying the clues that I've found have gotten this dusty old box one step closer to going home where it can be loved and cherished. How often do we get a glimpse into someone's love story in their own words? It's pretty rare. Way too rare for it to be sitting in a warehouse, that's for sure.
Robert & Norma, for whatever reason we were brought together, thanks for allowing me to witness your love story. Those 75+ letters have taught me how to be more intentional with my words in my own marriage, and that even though you get married, that doesn't mean you should stop "courting" one another. And lastly, you've taught me how to be diligent and persistent, and that what appears to be a dead end while searching for something important, is actually just another opportunity to think outside of the box (no pun intended!).
Now let's get you two love birds home!