Family letters unveil true love story
*This article was previously published Feb. 14, 2019 on the Calaveras Enterprise for my column Mother Lode Millennial.*
When you think of true love, who comes to mind? Your parents? Your grandparents? You and your partner? When I think of true love, I think of my great-grandparents.
My great-grandfather Andy Fischer wrote this to my great-grandmother Genevieve Hession on Aug. 16, 1924:
“ … I am going to take a trip down by the sea to look for that sweet little girl I met not so long ago. As you don’t seem to know who she is. And when I meet her with a hug and a kiss I will greet her. I’ll bet you will know who she is then.
“So you don’t know what an impression means? Well neither do I.
“So I will make you another confession and this I know. I love you. You are the sweetest girl I ever met.
“Don’t think I am putting on (too) strong for I already told you that I love you and I will never change my mind.
“ … Will saddle my horse and take this letter to town and mail it to the sweetest girl in this wide world. So goodbye little sweetheart, hoping to hear from you soon.”
This was only his third letter written to her. Despite dropping out of school in the eighth grade, Andy is quite the wordsmith, isn’t he? He had just met Gen for the first time the month prior, at a summer picnic in Lily Gap in West Point. She had traveled up to Calaveras from San Francisco with her gal pal Helen Hallinan, who had relatives in the area she visited.
They must have made quite the impression on each other, because when Gen returned to San Francisco, she wrote Andy a letter. And he wrote back.
They continued to write to each other for the next six years, falling in love, becoming engaged, building a home together in Mokelumne Hill, and living the rest of their days there, together. Almost every single letter Andy wrote to Gen, she saved and cherished until the day she died.
Though both of my great-grandparents are gone, my family still has these letters. They are stored safely in binders now in the home Andy built for Gen. I only have one binder with me, typing them up onto the computer so that we have an electronic copy of them as well. These letters are so delicate, and are very important family heirlooms. I feel like we have been given the responsibility to care for them.
Was their relationship perfect? Absolutely not; it had its ups and downs, like all relationships do, but I know Andy and Gen shared a great love for one another. I can see it in their faces in old photos. I can hear it in stories told to me by family members who knew them. I read it in their letters.
In reading the letters, I’ve gotten to get to know my great-grandparents in a way I never got to before; I have come to love them as if I grew up sitting on their knees, hearing their story told to me from them.
I’m currently working on what I call a “memoir-of-sorts” of their love story and how it has helped me find love as well. I’ve been researching and writing the rough draft for several years now (and typing up the letters. There are literally hundreds of them). Working on their story is actually what inspired me to go back to college to study creative nonfiction. It’s really a beautiful love story, and I hope I do it justice.
So I’d like to dedicate this Valentine’s Day to my great-grandparents Andy and Gen, who have taught me what true love is.
If you are interested in the writing process of this "memoir-of-sorts," you can find it on Wattpad or follow me on Instagram. I update it sometimes. The final product won't be like this one, since it's a rough draft. It's been a challenging but fun process for me so far.
Happy Valentine's Day to all the true blue lovers out there!