“Love is like ghosts…
Few have seen it but everybody talks”*
That’s about as close to Halloween that we are going to get today, since I’ve pretty much run out of pictures of cute children wearing costumes and I’m not even carving a pumpkin this year. That said, I am going to deal with both love and ghosts, at least in so far as they concern family history.
Last week as the DH moved things around in our overstuffed attic to make room for the roofers, he uncovered a file box full of my papers, including a large number of family letters that I had xeroxed from the originals when I visited my aunt Susanne many years ago. What a treasure trove! Among them I found this letter written by my great aunt Leila Cameron Kessler to my grandfather, Daniel (Bunker) Cameron:
I was very glad to hear from you (as) I was beginning to think that my brother had forgotten me. Still I knew you were busy, of course, in school this winter and with studying and social affairs it keeps one on the go. You are taking dancing lessons too aren’t you? I guess you had a fine Christmas and I am so glad that you got a mandolin. Dan and I are both glad. Are you going to take lessons this winter or wait till when you haven’t so much school work? You must bring it when you come visiting us so we can (make) some music. Dan made my buy a volume of Mozart’s (sic) Sonatas – it is so big and heavy and each sonata is very long, but we can play them in a kind of a way – we just murdered Beethoven – that is, I did. They were so hard. You know that Dan belongs to the music club at the Bureau of Standards. He has to practice every Friday after work. It would be nice if you could learn to play real well and get in the mandolin club at High School wouldn’t it?
Yes, I enjoy the club, more because I get acquainted and the ladies are so nice than to play cards. It seems to be the only thing to do out here in the winter time. Dan and I play cribbage often in the evening, too. We go to the movies once a week at least, in the evening. They have fine pictures at the Columbia Theater and though we have to pay more, we like them better. They have the very best there.
Has there been much snow up there this winter and much skiing or snowshoeing, etc..? We’ve had only two snowstorms this year and it lasted only about one day. One morning I had to shovel off the walk all along our sidewalk and then by night it was all slush and by the next day it was virtually gone. There isn’t a bit now but it is awful cold and windy.
I hear that you go to see the girls. Well there is no harm in that if you do not let them know you care for them too much – and there is safety in numbers. There is no harm in being friends with any girl who is nice but where you are you cannot be too careful – we never seem to care for the same ones when we get older that we do when we are going to school and sometimes we hurt people’s feelings and never get good friends again just by going with one too much, and then maybe something changes and we stop going with them so much and then they are hurt and mad, maybe for always. It is a problem to know always what to do – but mama always knows best even though it doesn’t seem so at the time. I know.
Please write to me anytime you want — about anything. I like to hear about school and the parties and the girls. You didn’t tell me what her name is. Did she think I was a cross teacher?
I wish you could see Louise. She says such cute things. I bought her a set of blue enamel dishes and she was having afternoon tea today with cookies and water for tea. She pours it out of her tea pot just as cute as can be.
It is dinner time and Edna has it on, so I must close.
Write soon again. Dan will write to you soon. Your loving sister, Leila C. Kessler
Isn’t that a nice letter? I am guessing it was written in about 1916 because Leila got married in 1913, and, when she wrote the letter, her daughter was old enough to hold a pretend tea party. Bunker would have been sixteen, which sounds about right. I imagine that the sisterly advice was inspired by Leila’s parents’ concern over Bunker’s interest in the ladies. Incidentally, I believe my brother now has the mandolin mentioned in the letter.
Poor Leila died in 1917 shortly after giving birth to her son, Edwin. Family lore has it that she died in the influenza epidemic, but given the timing, I think it must have been from complications of the birth. Although she lived in Maryland, she was buried in Burlington, Vermont. I suspect her parents bought the family plot at that time. Her death must have been a terrible blow, coming as it did while Leila’s brother, Erskine, was away in France fighting in WWI.
So on this Halloween, while you’re handing out candy to tiny ghouls and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, remember your family ‘ghosts’.
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
*Lord Huron, “Love like Ghosts”