Sugar Notes and Upside Down Stamps

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I don’t remember ever asking Dad why he had a temporary mission in Goose Bay, Labrador when he was in the air force. (Which surprises me, because I’m a question asker!) But, for whatever reason, Dad was sent from his base in Lake Charles, Louisiana to Goose Bay for about six weeks in the spring of 1955.

This was just a few months after Mom and Dad had met and fallen in love. They weren’t officially engaged, but were already planning to be married. And they wrote to each other faithfully every day.

They were married that June, and their letters were merged together into a cardboard box that traveled with them to Milwaukee, and then to several small homes in Minnesota, until they built their final home in 1962.

And one day, when they were in their late seventies, I came across the simple cardboard box they were stored in. And I was delighted at the find! Dad was blind by that time and Mom’s mind was clouded by Alzheimer’s. I asked Dad if I could read the letters to him, and he seemed pleased.

The envelopes were already arranged neatly in the box by dates; Dad’s letters at one end of the box, and Mom’s at the other. So I’d read one of Dad’s and then take one from Mom’s side with the same date. Mom was just 21 and Dad was 22, when they wrote the letters, and I was taken back in time and given a picture of their fresh young love.

Every few weeks or so I would read a couple more letters. I would often have a hard time reading loud enough for Dad to hear, because I was choking up. And often Dad was, too. But Mom was pretty oblivious to the whole thing, which only added to my emotions.

I never finished reading the letters to Dad. We got a little more than half way through the box. But even though I loved reading them, eventually it just seemed too tender a thing to do.

But I do remember one of the last letters I read to Dad was about building their home and having babies and raising their children to know the Lord, and other hopes and dreams. And Dad said to me, “You know what? All of our dreams came true. We did all those things!”

And I was so grateful to hear he felt that way! And even though Mom didn’t know she was married anymore and he was blind and taking care of her in such challenging circumstances, he never, ever stopped loving her.

And even when Mom would look Dad straight in the face and ask him, “Where’s Raymon?” I believe that part of her knew that she was looking at him, her love, and that she was most content when she was in his arms or holding his hand.

I took the box of letters out again tonight to look at them. The cardboard box they are in is falling apart now and doesn’t reflect the treasure it holds. So I ordered a special box to keep these “sugar notes” (as Mom and Dad referred to them in their letters) safe and honored.

And I pulled a few random letters out and read them. And among other things I learned why so often the stamps were upside down on their envelopes. Dad said it meant the letter was going to someone who was loved or missed. I don’t know if that’s still done today, or if it was the “I love and miss you emoji” of the fifties. But it was a sweet thing to learn.

And it made me wish I could write Mama and Daddy a letter now. And mail it with an upside down stamp.

But it comforts me to know that they are together once more, in paradise with Jesus. Daddy can see his sweetheart’s beautiful face again and Mama knows her love for sure! They are young and fresh once more in the light of eternity, and they never have to miss each other again.

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8 comments

  1. Beautiful! I lost both of my parents last year, and have so much enjoyed reading my dad’s love letters to my mom, which she kept. Oddly enough, hers are not there… probably a testament to the fact that my dad tended to travel light and throw away anything he wasn’t using at the time a move. Reading through my dad’s love letters, and 20+ years of my mom’s letters home when they were missionaries, has been such a precious treasure. My whole childhood is documented in those weekly letters back to “the States.” It has reminded me to save my written record, including journals and notes in my Bible, for my own children. These are the things that ground us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this blog. They have been a comfort to me as I have gone through similar experiences during the approximate same time that you’ve been traveling your journey.

    1. Wow, you do have a treasure! Your whole childhood documented! I have one letter my mom wrote to her mom that mentioned me and it is precious to me. And the love letters are so precious! Thank you for sharing and I’m so grateful to hear that my thoughts have been a comfort to you!

  2. Introduced by one of my dad’s match-making cousins, my parents met through the mail while my dad was in the Air Force. When I was a young teen, I found their “sugar notes” (I love that description) in a trunk in our family’s basement. I would sit down there in the laundry room sneaking a read of their precious letters any chance I could get. It was a beautiful love story.

    Fast forward to a few years ago when I was moving my mom to live near me (Daddy had skipped on ahead of her to heaven a few years prior). I found her lovely wedding dress, but couldn’t find the letters. I was so disappointed, as I had wanted to save them.

    Oddly enough, my husband and I met through the mail in a similar fashion when he was in the Navy. I first wrote him as part of a letter writing campaign of people from our church’s congregation writing servicemen and women during the Vietnam war. Wayne and I wrote back and forth for three years. I saved every one of those letters written in the early 70’s. And, yes, somewhere along the way,about a year into our letter writing when we had finally met one another in person, the stamps on the envelopes were affixed upside down. So it was a secret code even then.

    Love your parents story because it reminds me of my own legacy of love. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story! That’s awesome that you met your husband through the mail! And it’s so interesting to learn about the meaning of the upside down stamp. I’m surprised I’d never heard about it earlier! What a treasure you have in three years of letters, and in your legacy of love!

  3. What a wonderful, tender post. Thank you for sharing it. Letters, cards, and handwritten notes are such treasures of our past and those we love. I’m 61 now and my brother, who was 8 years older, first began to write me letters when he went off to college in 1968. He was 18 and I was 10. He died suddenly and unexpectedly just over a year ago. What a hole in my heart his passing brought. I was so thrilled to find in a box of old letters a card he had written me when I turned 13 . He had signed it: “Love you forever.” ( What kind of brother does that for his little sister???) My brother lives in “forever” now. He had no idea how precious those words would one day be to me and the comfort they would bring. Nothing separates us from God’s love and the love of those we cherish. Faith hope and love remain. But the greatest of these is love. My brother and I are separated now but it is only for a little while. Until we embrace again, I have his many letters and the knowledge his love for me ‘forever.” I know it brings you comfort to know your parents are together once again for all eternity.

    1. That is a great comfort to know my parents are together. And what a precious card from your brother! That is rare for a brother to do for sure! What a sweet comfort!
      Thank you for sharing your story, Ivy, and for your encouragement! God bless!
      ~Cheryl

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