“Dear Dickie,” the woman wrote on thin parchment paper. “Here I am, so please don’t scold me …”
The Jan. 2, 1947, letter had made its journey from Honolulu to Kobe, Japan, courtesy of a 5-cent airmail stamp — evidence of an overseas courtship between two young people. She began with an apology for not writing sooner but quickly eased into flirting and teasing, anticipating the day when they would see each other again.
The author —my grandmother Martha Kekauililani Matsuda — was just turning 20 years old and writing every other week for a year to a man stationed in Japan as part of the U.S. occupation after World War II. They would marry two years after these letters were written, and together, she and my grandfather Richard would raise eight children.
My father recently found Grandma’s letter and 27 others stashed inside a simple wooden box hidden at the bottom of a chest in my late grandparents’ bedroom. Like many people who find old letters or beloved objects long forgotten, the discovery brought so much joy. But there was more: Not only did the letters provide a glimpse into our family’s history, but they also shed light on our family’s role in American history and offered insight into my own cultural identity, too.
With each page, each loose shape of her cursive handwriting, I searched for details about my grandparents’ earlier lives and the war they had just lived through. I hung on every endearing word she wrote to “Dickie,” feeling the tingle on my arms as I tried not to tear the delicate pages.
“Looks like you’ll be on your way home soon,” she wrote in another letter near the end of their pen pal exchange, which spanned one year, till the summer of 1947. “I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.”
Read more at NPR.