My sister saves all the treasures of our family, so I call her our archivist. She handed me this letter I wrote to my dad when I had just turned 14. It tells so much about what was going on in our lives at that time (a big move from New England to Florida, and my father’s absence while taking the exam to practice medicine in Florida). It also shocked me to discover a part of myself I’d forgotten~ thoughtful, articulate, and full of compassion for those less fortunate than myself.
I was using Dad’s stationery from his alma mater, Dartmouth. I’m impressed by my letter writing form~ date, indentations, beautiful handwriting. I’m still a letter-writer, and even though my handwriting has changed a LOT since then, people still admire it all the time. Don’t we teach that in school anymore? Maybe not.
Anyway, Dad, this letter is for you~ again ❤
A LETTER TO MY DAD
May 26, 1965
Your letter was beautiful. Thank you for the advice.
You’ll never guess where I am right now: sitting on the lounge-chair outside on the terrace. We just had a cloud-burst and everything is cool and balmy. Would you believe it? It was up to 95 degrees this afternoon. We sure needed the rain.
I saw a movie last night with Mother, Sue and Brownie. It was called, “Nothing But a Man.” It was really fantastic. The whole movie was based on the life of an everyday, hard-working Negro family~ something like “A Raisin in the Sun.”
As I sat there, I saw how frightening it would be to be a Negro, to just walk out into the streets and know that people would look at you, and perhaps even threaten you. I saw how hopeless the life of a Negro was, even if he knew that he was not inferior, even if he knew that what he stood for was right, even when he stood up for it.
The main character in the movie was a young, thoughtful Negro who worked in a railroad gang. Though he stood up for his rights, his fellows submitted readily to the white man’s cruel hand and tongue, without a struggle. He was termed even by his fellows as a troublemaker because he would not be treated like dirt by the whites, but fought back. Thus, he lost many a job and his intelligent person longed for the freedom it deserved.
What made the movie so good was the truth in it, the reality and aliveness. It had no typical movie-like ending, where the hero lives happily ever after. It left you hanging, and it left no answer, because there isn’t one. It was sad. Dad, what can we do to give the Negroes hope and a reason to live? So many of the Negroes believe that they themselves are inferior, and they don’t even try. They drop out because there’s no sense in an education (they have reason to believe this) because as soon as they apply for a job, they’re usually taken last, for often whites have priority. Why is there this stupid prejudice? Will the whites and colored ever be equal?
I can’t write what I feel on paper very well, and if I did I would use up all my stationery, so I’ll stop.
I hear you’re coming home for several weeks. Will you be here for the auction? All of us here miss you so much ~ we can’t wait to see you. Do you have a tan? You ought to, what with all that sun. The plans for a new house are very exciting. This way we can plan it the way we want it. Boy! I don’t see how you can study such a long time. I don’t think I could stand it. I guess you’ll be glad when it’s all over.
Mommy’s having some people out to look at the house tomorrow, and we’re scurrying around to get the place cleaned up.
I just finished reading “The Last of the Mohicans.” It was terrific, but it was kind of long. Whew! 435 pages!
I’m having a going away party this Saturday, the 29th. Wish you could be here, Dad, so you could meet all my friends. Since we can’t have it in the barn (it’s filled with lumber), we’ve decided to have it outside on the terrace. I just hope it doesn’t rain!
Nancy got a 3rd place in the horseshow on Sunday. She was happy but she would’ve much preferred a first. Oh well, next time she’ll get one.
We’re here giving away tons and tons of things. It’s fantastic! The Bevens are already so loaded with “Gatlin Generosity” that each member of that less fortunate family has two overcoats for the winter and a choice of 20 different outfits for school and the like. It’s really funny, but it’s so much fun giving all these things to people who need them that you forget you’re sacrificing some of your favorite things.
Well, Mother is going out and she wants to mail this letter, so I’ve got to close my lengthy epistle with these words:
I love you and life is not the same without your presence. I would that I could spend my last days at Willowbrook with you here too, but it cannot be, so love and kisses until you come back home.
Your loving daughter,
PS I just had to enclose this masterpiece of Nancy’s. It’s really great! Look at number 2, the way she’s got the horse twisted around. It’s really funny that a kid so little would notice and be able to draw this position so well. She’s going to be a real artist some day.