I was four years old when my family arrived in Nigeria in December of 1960, transported from the windswept High Plains of Texas to steamy jungles in a matter of days. I was so young that living in Africa seemed natural — it seemed like paradise to me — it was wild and hot and full of interesting plants and bugs and lizards. A real life adventure — and what a grand one.
For my parents, who were missionaries, the adventure was a different matter. While they were dedicated beyond belief to their work, they were terribly homesick, and letters from home were what kept them going. Even though I was having a great time living in the “bush” a.k.a. the jungle, I knew how much the arrival of those letters on blue airmail stationary meant to my parents, and so it was that the arrival of mail was always an event.
The vast majority of the time, letters from home were full of the ordinary and mundane — the comings and goings of friends and family, details about a new dress, or what was growing in the garden. A handful of times, the letters bore sad news – and I remember those times too — when a beloved uncle died, when a barn where my parents had stored all but a few select items of their belongings burned to the ground meaning the loss of all their furniture, wedding gifts, dishes, appliances, all gone.
But whether good, bad or mundane, the letters meant home, and that mattered so much to my mom and dad, and since I was a child and they were the center of my world, the pretty blue letters meant home to me too.