My Uncle Bill Spencer always loved the handwritten letters that were written by his family. It didn’t matter to him if it was nieces or nephews, his siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. He saw in every word, great value…as if it were pure gold. The more I look at old letters, and search for information about my family online, the more I realize that Uncle Bill was really on to something. Seeing the handwriting of our ancestors…be it on a letter, draft card, or photograph always gets me excited. To think that my ancestor actually signed that card, or wrote that letter is very cool. I especially love finding things that were written in some other language. When my grandmother Anna Schumacher Spencer and her brother Albert Schumacher were in school, the teacher made fun of their language. When they came home and told their mother, my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel Schumacher, she decided that German would no longer be spoken in their home. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind on that issue, but if German was spoken, it was not often. So to find a letter written in German by my Great Grandmother Henriette Schumacher to her daughter, my Aunt Min Schumacher Spare is especially exciting. I wish that I understood then, what I understand now about the handwriting of my ancestors. I am so excited about to find these great letters from people I have come to feel like I know well.
When I look at the handwriting of my great grandmother, I see a woman who, even in the face of much pain and adversity, prided herself on her handwriting. Of course, life happens, and we can’t always have the same control of our handwriting that we once might have, but at the time of this letter in May of 1911, her handwriting was pretty and delicate. My great grandmother suffered much with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and yet, I believe that she loved beautiful things, and that she was a delicate and beautiful woman. I know that she was so proud of her family. She would like to help them all she could, but with a large family, and tough times, it was not much. Nevertheless, it was her hope that all of her children would succeed in anything they chose to do…after all, America was the land of opportunity.
Mina Schumacher always wanted to be a teacher, but in the end, she became a bookkeeper. I think she was probably ok with that, but maybe always felt a bit of regret. Nevertheless, her hanwriting to me shows strong woman who loved the pretty and delicate things in life. She often signed things using beautiful script or calligraphy. It was her own sense of style. Many people never give any thought to the impression their signature will make on another person, but she did, and I loved it since the first time I saw it in my dad’s photo album. It was just as beautiful and graceful as she was. She knew that the handwriting of our ancestors is important.
In times past, many people sent out Christmas cards. It was simply a part of the season. You always had to make sure you got them in the mail as early as possible, or they didn’t arrive in time for Christmas. As a young newlywed, I tried really hard to get that tradition started, but it seemed like I always got cards from people that I didn’t expect and then they didn’t get one from me, or the time to mail them was long gone before I could even wrap my mind around the fact that the Christmas season was once again upon us. Most often, it was all I could do to get my Christmas shopping done…much less send out Christmas cards. It just seemed a lost cause, and like most lost causes, it went the way of the wind early on in my marriage. With two kids to take care of, there just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for such an extra.
Christmas cards used to be something most people did. It was tradition, passed on from parent to child. My Aunt Jeanette Byer has always had her act together on the Christmas card thing, and every year…like clock work, I get a card from her right about this time. Yes, it came yesterday, so that is what prompted this story. When I get her card, and think about just how sweet she is to always think of me and so many other people at this time of year, I start to think that I really should send her a card back, and if I ever got that done, Aunt Jeanette would probably faint, because it has not happened at this point. I also got one from my cousin, Shirley Cameron last year, and of course, it was too late to send one back by then, but it did show me just how sweet my cousin, Shirley is, and it is my hope that she knows just how much I love her, even in the absence of a Christmas card.
As the years have gone by, I have started receiving fewer and fewer Christmas cards, and while it could be because I never get any sent out, I have a feeling that fewer and fewer people send them out anymore. With the closer connections we have through Facebook, and the ability to send out e-cards, I think the practice of sending out Christmas cards is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Modern technology has a way of doing that, and while modern technology is vital to our way of life, maybe it is a little bit sad to see traditions like letters and Christmas cards go by the wayside. I know my Uncle Bill Spencer would feel that way, because he loved letters. He wanted the handwriting of the individual to have as a keepsake for all time. I can understand that now, where I could not before. Every time I see Uncle Bill’s handwriting, I know it instantly. I have seen it so often that it is as much him as he is. That is a tribute to the amount of writing he did on the family history all these years.
My dad loved Christmastime. As a Christian, it marks the birth of our Lord and Saviour, so it is a day that is important to us. I know that every time I see my dad’s handwriting, it makes my heart jump a little bit. It is like a connection to him that lives on here, even though he lives in Heaven now. For that love of handwriting, I have to thank my Uncle Bill, because it was he who first pointed out its importance. I came across a Christmas card sent home to Uncle Bill, from my dad during World War II, while he was in training in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was among the things that my grandmother kept, and then gave back to him later on, and while the only handwriting on it is simply my dad’s name, I know that the card was among the things that were dear to his brother’s heart, because it was sent to him from his brother, Allen Spencer, who was spending Christmas far from family in 1943. I’m sure that it was a lonely time for both of them, because they were very close, and it was a way for my dad to reach out across the miles and let his brother know, that he loved him. I guess that is really what Christmas cards, or any other cards are all about. Christmas is simply a season for showing your love, whether you mail a card, write a letter, send an e-card, or make an announcement on Facebook. It’s all about showing your love.