November 19, 2018

Grab a Coffee - You Have Mail

As the holidays approach, you will find me at bookstores searching for the perfect boxes of Christmas cards. I stop at the post office to melt over the pretty holiday stamps until I settle on a few designs, then end up nestled in coffee shops, at times with a companion, writing notes on these cards to friends and family.

It is with pleasure to confess that I have saved almost every letter and card received. Particularly precious ones are:

· Letters written by my father over the years filled with humor and signing off on each with Love Daddio.

· A cherished letter from King Olav’s secretary (Olav V was the king of Norway from 1957 until his death in January of 1991). I wrote him to introduce myself and to form a connection as family lore shared that my great uncle, Thorvald Olsen of Norway, and King Olav were friends. Our family has pictures of them sitting next to each other at formal royal dinners. The King’s secretary wrote back to let me know that King Olav had read my letter but died before he could write back.

· Letters from a family in England who took my father in during World War II after he was injured. Dad lived with this family during his recovery and the wife would write to dad’s parents in Marquette informing them how his healing was coming along – also sharing some of their situation living in England during this war.

· Letters from aunts, uncles and grandparents, which piece together portions of our history which would be lost and forgotten if these had been tossed away.

· Letters from my uncle, Captain Richard E. Olsen, a great lakes ship captain. In these he describes life at sea, particularly on Lake Superior. I asked him if he would record his adventures on (cassette) tapes, he agreed, so followed a long period in his life where we sent these tapes back and forth. My husband took the cassettes and put them on CDs after my uncle’s death to present to his wife. She missed his voice and would fall asleep as he told tales of his high sea adventures.

· A letter from the actress, Carol Burnett, in response to one I had written to her during a very trying period in her life. She wrote kind words of thanks for the support during this difficult time.

· A notebook filled with all our family newsletters - The Olsen Chronicles - written by family, edited by me, recording their stories of trials, milestones, and greetings.

· Lastly and truly, a binder filled with all your Christmas letters, short or long, 3-hole punched, and placed with love in this book of memories.

These stories through the written word is a gift to our ancestors. Think about the future [you may not be living, but bear with me]. Imagine your children sitting around a table with steaming mugs of coffee or tea sharing family stories, and, of course, missing you tremendously. A pause in the conversation as they struggle to share what they learned growing up from the stories told around tables by family members. The conversations run dry of memories so they pull out “the box” and read aloud about our funny lives, which authenticate their discussions, thus themselves. They will know deeply who they are from what we share about ourselves.

But so sad if nothing has been shared … no letters are found. Mom, dad, grams and grampa are long-gone (this includes us, dear reader).

So, with that in mind and my favorite pens sorted and ready, I write little tidbits.

Sharpen those pens, dear friends. I’ll eagerly grab a hot mug of coffee to drink as we read your card or letter.

Your stories matter more than you can imagine.


  1. I enjoyed reading this. I hope your family appreciates the care you've taken to preserve such a heritage. There is no substitute for a thoughtful, handwritten note, a gift that keeps giving each time it is re-read. Been fun watching you continue to write since our blogging course at ICA. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. You are a "sight for sore eyes" today, Jacey. Thank you for the kind words about preserving the heritage in our families. Please share the name of your blog for me. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  3. Wow. Just Wow! An idea for your next book: Make copies of all those memories and bind them. I’ll be glad to purchase the first copy! And thanks for ending your blog post with a picture of my mother!

    Hugs and kisses,
    Cousin Donna

    1. Cousin, I read your comment, was tickled so much had to read it again, am again tickled. I knew a Swedish lady who bound her family memories into a book but no one seems terribly interested. I think, and hope, you are writing about The Olsen Chronicles - I'd love the challenge! Thanks for the idea and you are welcome about your mom's picture - from Baraga Avenue in Marquette. Even the coffee cup brings smiles as does your mom. Hugs.


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