A long forgotten treasure – my grandma’s letters

A free weekend, bad weather.. what do you do as a family researcher? You grab this case where you put the all the stuff labelled “to look at when you have time”.

So that’s what I did this weekend. I grabbed one of the boxes and cuddled up on the couch. This one was full of letters, fotos, postcard and souvenirs (menue cards, concert tickets, etc.) from the time I lived in the United States. Wow, that was almost 20 years ago.. how time flies!

One stack of letters caught my eye. Normally I can say from the handwriting on the envelope already who wrote the letter. This one looked like the one from my Dad, but he was not a big writer. When I opened the first one, I took a deep breath. Those were the letters my grandma sent me. Not that I really forgot about them, but I haven’t thought about this box in ages.

I started with the first one, I put my hands upon.


How could I forget that she explained how to prepare traditional german red cabbage? I was an Au-Pair-Girl in the States and responsible for the cooking for the family I was living with. Not that I couldn’t cook but being 21 years old, after a while my menue plan got very boring 😉

My hostdad asked me if I knew how to prepare red cabbage. Ehm, well back home, I know. Open the glass, pour the content in a slow cooker,  add some spices for hot wine, an apple or two, some lard and stew it for hours on low heat. But a fresh one? The real head of cabbage? No idea..

That’s where my grandma came in. I asked her in a letter (no email at that time) if she could send me some traditional german recipes including the red cabbage. And she did, I was very very proud when I served it the first time. And it was delicious, I might add  😉

I think during that year we talked via our letters more than in the last 5 years before I left. Maybe because we were far away from each other. There were no expectations, no “when are you coming for a visit again”.

Reading that she was so proud of me because I took this opportunity to go abroad all on my own really made my day today.

I went back home to Germany in July 1995. While I was living in the States, my grandma had a severe stroke. Although she lived for almost one more year, I refused to visit her in the hospital. I didn’t want to see her the way she was. I wanted to remember her the way I knew her. And the way I got to know her via her letters. I never talked to her again. There have been times when I doubted if my decision not to visit her was the right one. But looking back, it was. And my Dad (her son) thinks the same way. He always supported my decision not going there to see her.

My grandma died May 12, 1996   –   Oma, Du fehlst mir!


5 thoughts on “A long forgotten treasure – my grandma’s letters

  1. I made a similar decision about my own grandmother and not getting another visit in before she died. I think of her often doing my research. I know she’d be tickled to see what we’ve put together about the family. That relationship is one of the reasons I do this work. Love your blog!


    • thank you Sheila. It is funny. Since I share my research more with the family, my Dad started to talk a lot more about his family, his childhood, his parents. He turns into a real chitty-chatter sometimes… totally loving it! 😉


  2. Pingback: December 14 – Happy Birthday to my other Grandma | Barbara Schmidt

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