"And it's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
And it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long, long time to be gone
and a short time to be there."
--Box of Rain
Lyrics by Robert Hunter
Music by Phil Lesh
Immortalized (for me) by The Grateful Dead
I have a box that's been inside an old trunk for a very long time. It's an old box, but it's held together pretty well over the years. Inside the box are bundles of letters.
I confess that though I've kept this box of letters safe from harm, I have never read them. They've languished in the old trunk waiting, much as they waited to make their way from writer to recipient until a ship came into port after a long time away from land. They've rested there patiently, waiting for someone to open them again, to discover the stories within, to ponder the lives of the writers and recipients, to decipher the words, which were sometimes hastily scribbled in pencil during stolen moments on lunch hours or between watches.
They are letters between my father and my mother during the War -- World War II, that is.
Tonight, I opened the box. Inside, the letters are tied in bundles, loosely arranged chronologically by, I assume, my mother. The earliest stack is from 1941. My father was in the Naval Reserves when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred and went into regular service shortly thereafter. The letters begin while he was stationed at Mare Island, California and mom was still living in Alameda.
I haven't made it through the entire 1941 stack yet, but several things have struck me.
Mostly, I'm struck by how in love they seemed to be. Each letter is peppered with loving thoughts and phrases like, "all my love and thousands of kisses." It was rare to see my parents being openly affectionate to one another, so it seems a bit odd to see so much of it in the letters. It's a good perspective to gain on them -- that of young people in love. It's certanly a perspective that can be difficult to imagine of one's parents.
In this age of email and Faceboook and Twitter and text messaging, I'm sad to think that boxes of love letters will be missing for future generations to ponder. I hope there are young lovers saving their electronic love notes on DVDs or something, but I doubt that will be the same as seeing the postmarks, the stamps, the handwriting, the brittle paper filled with words of love and life gone past.
I don't know what I'll discover about my parents as I delve deeper into the box. But I think I'm ready to dare to press on and see what's there. It's going to take a while since the dates range from 1941 through 1945. Such a long, long time to be gone and a short time to be there.