We live in a digital world, where finding a treasure-filled trunk hidden away in the basement, or that box of letters in the attic, is becoming a rare occurrence. Lucky me, to have made such a find: a cache of love letters, written during a desperate courtship almost a century ago.
In early 2007, some months after my husband’s grandfather died, the family offered his house across from San Francisco’s Marina Green for us to stay in during our trips to the City; we were invited to take anything we wanted, within reason.
One day while Stephen was attending a seminar, I had the house to myself. Barely noticing the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, and Alcatraz, I headed straight for the photo albums, spending the entire day looking at tons of pictures, then discovering the treasure and reading a huge stack of letters from long ago.They’ve been haunting me ever since.
Unfortunately, many were written in Yiddish with Hebrew lettering, beyond my understanding. But enough were in English that my day flew by. What I found was a story of San Francisco in the early 20th century, reflecting the morals and values of the time. It’s a story about a woman who followed her heart and love. With hopes so high, the fall at times was very steep.
The correspondence is especially interesting because Bassya was already married and had a child. The passion she felt, the steps she took, the feelings she explored, all are expressed in these letters. We can’t read them with judgment in our pockets. Our reading lens must be clean, and only then can we make discoveries and be enlightened about another time and catch a glimpse of a life lived long ago.
So I hope you’ll follow along as we explore a relationship that lasted for a lifetime, though not without its troubles.
A new friend has helped me get this project underway. She’s the only person I know with the knowledge, skill, and willingness to translate some of the letters. If not for her, these might all be lost forever. Special thanks to Judith.