In 1927, The Family Letter was started. My grandmother’s mother’s family, the Cunninghams, started this letter so all the cousins and descendants could keep up with each other.
It is still going on! I received the letter on Saturday. When the person receives the letter, she/he removes the one she/he wrote last year and writes a new one, and puts it on the bottom of the pile. Then it is sent on to the next person on the list at the front of the letter. Also included are addresses and (now!) email addresses on everyone on the list. If someone wants to join the list, they simply write a letter, put their name on the bottom of the list, and send it on.
It is amazing to read. Our family has a very strong Presbyterian heritage, and the Christian faith runs through the family like lifeblood. Missionaries, pastors and pastor’s wives run through each generation. There are 3 generations of Cunninghams writing now, and I am trying to get #4 to join in as the first member of the 4th generation. It is encouraging to read what my grandmother’s generation has to say about politics and religion (essentially: not much has changed) and how they mourn their spouses and loved ones who’ve passed on, but are comfortable knowing they’ll be together again.
I really look forward to meeting them one day. I feel like I have gotten to know them through these letters.
What a treasure it is, this huge family. Grandmother loves to talk about the character of the Cunninghams, the qualities passed down through the generations. Generosity, a strong faith in God, a quirky sense of humor, and a love of practical jokes. Last time I saw her (in June) she told me how important it is to take lots of pictures of family, because one day someone will want to know what you look like. It’s interesting to look at pictures of her when she was young, because I look very much like her. One of the assistants at the home where she lives commented on how she and I have the same profile.
So now I have The Letter…or Letters, I suppose. It is about 50 pages long, with photographs and funeral announcements, graduation pictures. Most of them are typed and printed from a computer, some of them are handwritten by a shaky hand in what used to be a beautiful script. Some of them don’t have much to say beyond “I’m still alive” and some of them go into detail about daughters in Greece and sons getting married.
It is…I am not sure how to say it…honoring, I suppose…to be a part of a family that believes the past matters, but also that the future matters, and that no matter what happens, faith is strong, family is strong. I love that. It’s encouraging, like there’s this long line of people behind and beside me?, all sharing a heritage and a belief system…I reckon that’s what a family is, right?