Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Will Never Know




She called him Maxie.

The early love letters were written mostly in Yiddish, and she kept them carefully into her old age, tied up with an ivory ribbon and tucked into a corner of her sewing table where we discovered the packet after they had both gone on.

The letters went missing, for the first time in 70 years, when we packed up their house. I came to believe that they had not wanted us observing their secret moments and the letters were lost by design rather than accident...yet several years later, they turned up again, mysteriously. I looked at them this time, even removing the old papers from their envelopes, staring at the Yiddish written out in two very different hands, his bold, dark and straight, hers lighter and with a slant...yet, I put them back without translating.

I can't bring myself to intrude on their private conversation.






for more Sepia Saturday entries, visit Alan's blog

39 comments:

MJ said...

Of course we wouldn't dream of asking you to open them in the interests of blogging, would we?

*casts knowing glance at fellow bloggers*

Leah said...

After I've made this grand statement to the contrary...I may well scan them in and post them! What are the odds that any of my good readers can read Yiddish? Grandma and Grandpa are rolling...

Brian Miller said...

how neat...it does turn the imagination at what they may contain...

willow said...

Oh, but they are calling out to you! How can you resist? (delightful photo...they look so full of zest...you must read the letters!)

nick said...

If the authors are no longer around, they can't object, and it might give you a fascinating insight into their relationship. Translate them, I say!

Alan Burnett said...

Surely Google must have a machine translation service from Yiddish! Post them, I agree. And as for it not being exactly Sepia Saturday - it is just what Sepia Saturday should be.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Too be honest, I think your integrity has already told you what you should do. What better person to discover these letters, and to maximise their potential by filtering them through your good self first.

The greatest of stories can always be told without ever revealing the full contents of the script.

(c.c today = 1)

Megan said...

Smiles, everyone, smiles! That's a great photo.

I'm torn on the revealment angle. I like your determination not to intrude. I like it very much! But one can't help but be curious...

otin said...

That is awesome that you did not translate them. My Mother saved letters that my father wrote to her, but I don't think that I ever want to read them.

savannah said...

i think you know everything you need to know already. they loved each other deeply and saw that love in the others eye always.

i'm torn about the translation. i still have letters for the MITM that i'm not sure, i'd want the coconut krewe to find and yet, i've not destroyed them...

xoxoxo

Merely Me said...

Leah!
No need to intrude but please do translate! ;)
I think everyone above said it so well too!
History. Family history. C'mon!

Pat said...

Would I mind if my surviving family read our letters? No I don't think so - but strangers - that's another matter.

Betsy said...

My sister and I read through a box of old letter my parents sent back and forth..my oh my, did we get an eyeful of things we didn't know! ha!

Yes, I say you should read them! They had to know they would be found some day. They could have destroyed them, but chose to leave them for you!

Baino said...

How could you not read them. I mean I understand not wanting to publish them but . . I have love letters from long ago tied with a red ribbon in the big red suitcase of my life. I wonder what my kids will think when they finally find them? Why else would I keep them?

Poetikat said...

I agree with Alan. This is ideal for Sepia Saturday. I'm with everybody else too; please scan, post and translate. I'm certain they wouldn't mind.
Such an inspiration!

Madame DeFarge said...

I wouldn't want to read them, either because I'd be disappointed by their mundaneness or because I'd be mortified by their frankness. Some things are better left unknown.

mago said...

... it's your decision.

C.M. Jackson said...

Yiddish is such a wonderful language! I think that your grandma and grandpa are kvelling thinking yiddisher kop--such a smart woman!--follow your heart..sounds like a wonderful love story..best c

Princess said...

Dear Miss Leah,

The right time will come when the letters themselves will invite you to delve into their secrets!

You are of course not obliged to share their content, but I must confess, Princess is quivering in anticipation!

Luv Princess XXX

Candie Bracci said...

wow..yes perhaps she wants them to be read.Ready to share,don't know.No I can't read Yiddish :)

lettuce said...

lovely photo, so full of smiles and love!

i don't know what I would do (or not)

Joanna Cake said...

Im a sucker for romance and our old folks did it best because they didnt have instant access to each other. They had to craft their letters carefully to avoid being crass or overblown because such damage could result in a suspension of the friendship and any query of terms used and subsequent apology could take months to achieve. They couldnt just text to rectify a misunderstanding.
Id love to know what the letters said but it would feel like an intrusion. And yet, everyone loves a love story, especially in today's climate where romance seems to be dying a death in favour of kiss and tell for filthy lucre...

The Unbearable Banishment said...

You must. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Karen ^..^ said...

Beautiful photo!! Such happy smiles, and the love just radiates from them.

I think it's lovely that you didn't intrude on their personal conversations, I wonder if I would have been the same? probably not. I'm horrifically nosy.

You are so sweet.

Cinnamon said...

I think their smiles to each other says it all. As others have said- the right time will become clear. Just make sure Hedgie learns Yiddish :)

Leah said...

Brian: I've long wondered about the contents...I wonder whether I'd see my grandparents differently from a reading of their private letters...

Willow: it's a good thing that my Yiddish isn't strong, so I could glance at the letters without having their contents fully revealed! Like a secret code...as my grandparents intended...

nick: I've been debating back and forth about it. I even got Sarge into the conversation. But we still can't decide...

Alan: Sepia Saturday is so great! It's inspired me to begin a scanning project--my mom has dozens of photo albums, so it'll be a long haul--as for the Yiddish translation, I think that between me and my sister, we can do the translation ourselves. I read the Yiddish words fluently, but without their meaning--I would need a dictionary to understand a lot of the vocabulary. My sister knows Yiddish grammar and syntax much better than I do. Perhaps perhaps...

Stephanie said...

I'm so nosy I'd want to read them! Nice post.

Leah said...

Jimmy: I think you are right. If they were to be told, it would be through my filter...but I'm even debating whether or not to read them myself. For some reason, it seems like a big deal. Like opening a Pharoah's tomb, maybe I'm not supposed to be in there...It's the fact that it's in another language that makes all the difference, and Yiddish was the language they used to keep secrets, even when I was a child.

Megan: I seem to have taken a stand along the way on this issue...but I'm definitely wavering...

otin: I think I feel very differently about the love letters between my parents. It's just too proximate for comfort. I have no desire to read those, but I do have a desire to read my grandparent's love letters.

savannah: I would hate like heck for Hedgie to read some of the letters between me and Sarge...but maybe I wouldn't mind my grandchildren reading them.

Merely Me: I agree that it would be incredibly illuminating as a piece of family history! A whole other side of those two, that we never knew.

Pat: Yes, definitely a difference between a granddaughter and strangers reading those...but as Jimmy said, it's all about the filter.

Leah said...

Betsy: that must have been an incredible revelation to read your parents' letters! I guess we're old enough now that we aren't devastated to learn certain things...we know they were all human...but still, it has potential for discomfort (to say the least, lol).

Baino: I don't think I would want to destroy any of my love letters, either from Sarge or from those who came before him. But when I go the extra step, and imagine them being read...

Kat: I'm leaning toward some compromise...I would love to post even just little bits, as they are very beautiful even as artifacts, even without knowing the meaning behind them.

Mme: I don't think I'd be disappointed, but I might well be mortified! Especially as I have a possibly misguided image of my grandma as a gentle, inoffensive sort of person...

mago: indeed. I wasn't planning to translate them, but after reading the comments here, I'm tempted all over again.

Leah said...

C.M.: I love Yiddish too. I hope I can get Hedgie to learn it, even just a little!

Princess: I really wonder whether those letters contain anything naughty! I would be absolutely staggered if they did...

Candie: I am thinking that I will read them myself, just a little bit...

lettuce: isn't that a good photo? They really look as they are in love. Which I think they were, even into old age, and even to death. It was a very passionate, sometimes stormy relationship.

Joanna: thanks for stopping by! I agree heartily with everything you say here. You are so right about hand-written letters, versus texting and emailing. That you couldn't take things back so easily, that you had to consider your words.

UB: I value your opinion highly. I am leaning in that direction.

Karen: I am extremely nosy too! Rest assured, if they were in English, they would have long since been devoured by me. The fact that they're in Yiddish just gave me some extra time to rein myself in...

Cinnamon: their smiles are so incredible. Just their expressions alone tell a love story...

Stephanie: like I said to Karen, I too am nosy! A buttinsky and a gossip! And anything else you can come up with, that's me. I'm frankly amazed I've resisted reading them for so long.

tony said...

It does raise an interesting question.Who are letters for after they are read? Bloggers dont have the same problem = we alone "own" the delete button.
An interesting possesion !
They Look Beautiful Together.

Keith said...

Go on, be a devil and read the letters. I'm sure they wouldn't mind. After all, you might get a better insight to their lives.

JGH said...

I have a great, great Aunt that kept a diary about her world travels in the Victorian days. I transcribed it and shard copies with some relatives that I knew would appreciate it. I hope I did the right thing.

The deceased might feel flattered that there is interest in their lives so many years later!

Random Chick said...

Okay, I'm gonna say something that is bad...but, what if you read all those letters and write a novel about their love affair? It sounds very intriguing.

I know I'm terrible. But I bet it would be a great book!! ;-)

Skeeter said...

Hi Leah,

I can understand your reluctance. I have a bundle of leeters my grandparents wrote while they were courting. I read a few of them and was shocked. They'd been old as long as I had ever known them. In their letters, they were young, lusty and full of life. It was unexpected. The letters are safely bundled up and waiting for a time when it just won't feel so weird to read them again.

Best wishes,

Skeeter

Poetikat said...

Leah—just a thought,
Could you do a podcast with some of the Yiddish? I'd love to hear and I'm sure others would too.

Kat

Mark Emerson Sanderson said...

You just can't get your hands on that sort of Pomade anymore. Men's hair products ain't what they used to be.

Leah said...

Working backwards--

Mark: so is that your first name? I've been thinking all along it was Emerson! I should have just asked you. And by the way, your new pic, the one on your profile, is seriously smokin' hot. Yes, I am undignified, but come on, it had to be said!!!!

Kat: that's a really cool idea! I've been toying ongoingly with the idea of a podcast. I feel so completely uninspired of late...

Skeeter: that is thrilling~it's always amazing to see another side of people you were sure you knew.

RC: that is a very interesting idea, actually. I will have to give it some thought...

JGH: a Victorian travel diary? that is remarkable. And in that case, absolutely had to be shared.

Keith: might just have to take your advice~

Tony: that's exactly what I can't decide--to whom do those letters really belong? Do they still belong, in some cosmic sense, to my grandparents although they're dead?...

L. D. Burgus said...

You have a very interesting blog. Family histories are all so different and yet all about the same. The perfect family is hard to find back then and still today.