Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Letters from Saudi Arabia

Regular readers of this blog, not so much recently but over the years, will know that I love letters as literature. I keep hunting books of letters, over the Internet, in used book stores, wherever I can find them. Today on my afternoon break, after I taught a brown bag class, I opened a PDF file I downloaded some time ago of Martin Luther's letters. I only read about 1/3 of the introduction and the first letter in the book, but I enjoyed it.

Every morning at work, in my before-starting time, I spend a little time formatting the letters of John Wesley. I downloaded these as MS Word files from the website files The Wesley Center website, year by year, volume by volume. I'm currently formatting volume 6 for better printing, putting footnotes where they should be, italicizing references, watching for those odd optical scanning things that the webmaster never corrected. I figure I'll be at that another year or so, then I'll have all eight volumes.

About six or eight years ago, maybe even longer, various relatives began returning to us the letters we had written to them from our years in Saudi Arabia (1981-83). We got them from my mother-in-law, her sister, my dad's house, which included those to my grandmother, Lynda's dad's house, and from her grandmother's estate. I quickly saw the value in these and typed them into MS Word files and saved them. Alas, that was at least two computers ago, and we haven't had that computer on for several years.

I thought those were all the letters we had sent that we were ever going to get back, but a couple of weeks ago Lynda was wanting to find a particular childhood picture that her brother had a question about. In looking for that, we searched through a box we took from Lynda's mom when she moved into her retirement apartment. In it were letters and from various people over a forty year span. I looked through them, and to my surprise found a bunch of letters of ours from Saudi Arabia.

One of those I immediately recognized, the first one Lynda wrote from there. I knew I had typed that, so I thought these must have been duplicates. Then I looked at the salutation on the letter: "Dear Mother, Dad, Norman, Grandma, & Grime,". What I looking at was the original. Had I typed from one of these duplicates? A couple of nights ago I found the originals that I had originally typed from copies. We now have the original of that letter plus two of the copies we mailed. Three out of five aren't bad.

As I began going through these newly discovered ones, I found it as fascinating as reading letters of Wesley from the 1700s, maybe more so, as the Wesley letters give me information, but these give me memories. Here's an excerpt from a letter Lynda wrote to her mom.
June 23, 1982 Wed
Dear Mother,
...The sewer backed up again last night. I got to spend some of the AM cleaning the bathrooms. Hope it doesn't happen while we're gone. The dryers are still only working half the time in the laundry room. I still have a load in drying and it's almost 5 PM after washing this AM. We are now told BVA doesn't have the money for washers & dryers & we've heard nothing more of phones.

Next day: Well, Dave got home early from work yesterday, the kids got up from their naps & we went o laundry room to get the last load of towels. Later we went to Hardee's for dinner with the Jacksons. We hadn't been out for about a month & so it was good. Karen is flying with her kids to the states tonight....

We are excited about flying out the 30th. Charles is sure anxious "to go see Grandma."....
I'd almost forgotten about that sewer backing up so often. What memories that brings up. Or, from the older batch, here's one I wrote. The location isn't given, but it would have been either my office in Al Khobar or our apartment at Palm Meadows Village just outside of Khobar.
16 October 1981

Dear Dad,
Just have time to write a quick note. I'm leaving for Riyahd in the morning to spend 2 or 3 days. I was supposed to go Sun-Monday, but just got a message today that I am to be there tomorrow.

We are all pretty well. Sara had an eye infection that has cleared up after we began medication. Chas. has had a cough, but does not appear ill except for that. My cold has been lingering for three weeks now – persistent cough & congestion. So far I have not missed any work.

The weather is cooler—below 100 deg F & not as humid. We have been swimming twice at the pool and once in the gulf. today we left the children with a sitter after church & at[e] at chinese [sic] food —it was excellent.

Enclosed are two checks to cover expenses. Say hi to all.
Dave & Lynda, Charles, & Sara
It was mailed at Rochester NY on 21 Oct 1981, and Dad endorsed the envelope "Received Oct 24, 1981 Saturday answered Oct 29, 1981. Nothing earth shattering but good to read, and to remember that anything below 100 degrees seemed cool to us back then.

So, I have lots of pleasant reading ahead of me. Maybe it's good that we didn't have a phone. We had to write all these letters, and so the memories live through them.

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