Thursday, January 19, 2012

Peter's Essays

Saturday I took the tree down, and with Buddy the dog happily prancing ahead of me, I dragged it through the pasture. Then without any fanfare, I threw it on the brush pile, thus ending another Christmas season. We like to hang onto good times a little longer at our house I guess, but sooner or later you have to move on and rely on memories and pictures to keep the spirit alive. Please allow me to share just one more story about this Christmas.

A friend of mine showed me a present she received for Christmas this year. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t new, and it wasn’t useful or even practical. It was just six pages written in beautiful cursive handwriting.

Once upon a time a 9-year old boy named Peter sat down to write. I can’t tell if this had been a school assignment, a suggestion from his mother, or if the mood had just hit him. Peter talked about how much he weighed, how tall he was, the color of his hair and eyes. In Peter’s first essay I learned that his father was a farmer and that Peter had to walk two miles to go to school.

The following year Peter wrote a letter to his friend James (and perhaps never sent it) happily reporting about the skates he received for Christmas and he included a “hearty,” thank you for the “kind present’ James had given him.

The next four essays, written during the next few years, were about Christmas. According to Peter, his “family likes to sing hymns on Christmas evening.” Winter was a “jolly season,” with “sleigh bells jingling on the streets.” The house was decorated “with holly and mistletoe.” But even as a little boy Peter knew that winter was hard on some because he wrote, “poor people don’t like winter because they have not enough money to buy coal to keep their houses warm.”

It’s obvious that this was written a long time ago. When Peter sat down to write he had no way of knowing what a great gift he would be giving his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren 90 years later. Fortunately, Peter, or most likely Peter’s mother, saved these writings in a special box.

Recently, that box was discovered by Peter’s granddaughter. Recognizing how special these words were, she and her mother made several beautiful copies and gave them to Peter’s children this past Christmas.

What a wonderful legacy. The words of a little boy, written long ago, saved by his mother, then again by him, to be read and shared over 90 years later are priceless. We only have a glimpse of a little boy and his world. Both are gone now, but because Peter’s written words were preserved, his family can learn a little more about him and feel a little closer to the man who was once a little boy.

Learn from Peter and write. Write your story and leave a legacy that time cannot erase. Write a letter to a friend, describe yourself, write about your father, record how your family celebrates Christmas or keep a journal, because someday somebody will want to read what you wrote.

When I turned from the brush pile toward the barn I was surprised to see the trail left by the tree and me. Dragging the tree through the pasture had mixed the leaves on the ground with the dusting of snow that fell last week. I had left a mark that showed I had been there. Soon time, wind and weather will erase all evidence of my passing. To leave a more permanent trail of life’s journeys, Peter’s family recommends ink and paper.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post today.
    I also received the six pages written by Peter.
    I was so amazed that these pages were discovered after all this time. It was one of the best
    Christmas gifts I have ever received.

    Keep up the good work!
    Sister Sally


  2. Jerry-

    I have a somewhat similar story. On December 26 I lost my Grandma Kaster unexpectedly. I had so many questions about her childhood, about my grandpa, and her parents that I wanted to ask her. Actually, I was planning on asking her these things over Christmas break. But it was too late.

    Fortunately I have one grandparent left. Grandma Warden. I vowed to ask her the same questions, however I know that Grandma Warden had some pretty dramatic life stories that I wasn't sure if I would be opening up old wounds.

    I took 11 months for me to come up with the courage to ask her to write her story. I asked her to write an essay on her life for me for Christmas. What shaped her life? What lessons can she teach me and my children? I said this would be the greatest gift she could ever give me, and I would need nothing else for Christmas.

    She ended up writing me and her children a 22 page essay about her life, about her marriage and lessons she's learned along the way. The date she handed me this gift. December 26th. One year after losing Grandma Kaster.

    Pretty fitting.

    Would you mind if I copied and pasted this to my blog? I'd of course put up a link to your blog stating that this is where I found it and to encourage people to come here.
    -Nate Warden

  3. Jerry, one of Mark's great-aunts died recently and she had an amazing life story. We heard her talk about her life often enough, but I finally took notes on what she said about a few things and am so glad I did. Even if we hear the stories, memory dims and the written word keeps it all straight. Thanks for the writing encouragement. Lynn

  4. Jerry,
    Thanks for sharing this. I was there when the gifts were received, and in a room of over 200 people, I can honestly say I have never observed a more moving gift be opened by people at the same time. Thanks!