Bringing to Life those Words from the Past

December 13, 2018


It should not surprise any of you that I love words, writing, words that are handwritten, thoughts that are typewritten—anything I can read, I am on it. This past Thanksgiving my parents each loaned me some very special documents from their archives, meaning old stuff buried under tons of other old stuff from deep within those desks that hold everything you don't need but still want to keep.



One of the items was a travel journal written by my dad’s great grandmother with handwritten additions from my grandpa, as well as great grandfather, great aunt, and great uncle. 


It told stories, though not the kind with good guys and bad guys and hearts won, then lost, then won again. These were stories from their lives. 


As I began reading through the journal, written in a nubby pencil on stained paper, though more likely, the stains came much later, I was thoroughly caught up in the Hanson journey from Nebraska to Colorado. It was April 1930 and my great grandmother was writing to “some good folks;” she never said their names, but her intention was to fill the notebook with their travel adventures then send it to them. My grandpa and his siblings each wrote a page, as did my great-grandfather, Pappy, we called him.


But most of the journal was filled with tales from my great-grandmother Hazel, driving through Colorado in a Buick, whose lights cut out one night on a mountain road, and she had to closely follow my great-grandfather as he navigated the roads in a truck, working as headlights for both vehicles.


And it was among these stories, that these words popped out at me in the most beautiful way: He felt a little blue last nite but after a bath & shave & clean clothes he thought the world beautiful.


I could not continue reading until I did something with those words, those thoughts, those emotions. And so I made this:



 It will go to someone special this year. Someone who may need to hear those words (though I think many of us could appreciate them). 

Have you ever come across the most normal sort of writing, but it pierces your heart in a way that must be remembered?


Another time I came across this xerox sheet, penciled “card” that my older son made when he was 8 or 9. I loved it because you could tell he spent all of 2 minutes (if that) putting it together. But the words. The words! They struck me so deeply, well, maybe because who wouldn’t want to be compared to a poem, right?

As you sit down to read a letter or a story or something else from the past, don’t just gloss over it. Don’t skim it and think “I’ll read this more closely later.” Take the time today. You never know what absolute treasures you may find.


And when you find those treasures, do something to breathe life into those words again.


Yes, bring those words back to life.






  • Amy….You did it again. You hit on an idea I had. We give our grown children a little gift to open everyday leading up to Christmas. I wanted to make day 24 a letter to each of them. To tell them something about them to carry. A memory to give. Now after reading your blog, I know I will tell each of them a story from our family history that hasn’t already been told but will reach them specifically. Thank you. I loved this .

    Naomi Burns
  • The patter of “recently ancient” American speech and writing, even by civilians, simultaneously fills me with awe, and sorrow.

    Have you seen “… Buster Scruggs”? It can be tough to watch in spots, but the language captures the era like only the Cohen Brothers can.

  • I love this!!


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