Monday, October 18, 2010

Letter from my Mother, 4 Dec. 2002

Mom passed away a few years ago, after years of health issues. I saved this letter, which has many memories of her life.

Dearest L--,

Once I remember you told me that because my handwriting slanted upward that it denoted optimism. The reason I remembered this is that your grandfather, Frank Huntington Russell's handwriting always did this. Also, until my signature changed, it was exactly like his even to the shape of the letters. Even on his dental laboratory door, somehow, the sign painter was able to write his name exactly like he did & also right under this he (my father) had him write "Master Craftsman." He made dentures with one or two gold crowns which made them look natural.

In Nevada where he lived for, perhaps, many years he learned to be a dentist from Dr. Whitesides, but when he moved to California after Grams [Allene Kelley Russell] said to him after living there for about two years, "I'm going back to California! You can come if you want to, but I'm going back." Of course he loved her so much he came, but he couldn't practice dentistry here, so he became a dental technician.

L--, I remember when you & [your husband] drove down from Idaho for the expressed purpose of getting Grams' cedar chest & while you were showing him the different items in it, you said, "We're a sentimental family." I distinctly remember that she had kept in it a shoe box where she had saved all the letters tied with a blue satin ribbon he had written her while she was staying in a finishing school in Pasadena where Auntie & Unkie [Mr. & Mrs. W. C. Maze] took her. You must have that, of course. Have you ever had enough spare time to read any of them?

You asked me to tell you their love story. It all began when they were on their way to Pasadena on the train. Grampa was going to San Francisco to collect some money he had loaned a man. It just so happened that Grampa & Unkie were in the club car at the same time & must have been sitting at the same table where they introduced themselves &, in the course of the conversation Unkie must have told Grampa about his wife & niece.

When the train stopped at some place, they all got out at a landing, so Unkie introduced Mr. Russell to his wife, Mrs. Maze & his niece, Miss Kelley. She had the most beautiful auburn hair & I like to think that she wore it piled on her head in the same fashion of a Gibson girl whose pictures were so popular in those days. Well, dear, here's what you asked me for, because it was love at first sight.

Even though she more than likely received a letter from him every day, she told me she was so homesick she even had the nuns crying.

She told me a funny thing that happened after they were married. She told him to break his toast, but evidently he didn't remember to do it, so she got angry & grabbed his piece & said, as she broke it in pieces, "If you won't break it, I'll break it for you!"

To show you he also had a temper, there was a woman he had made dentures for who kept coming back complaining they still didn't fit. The last time he said, "Here, give them to me & I'll fix them," so when she did, he took them & threw them on the floor where they broke in pieces. He more than likely told Grams, because after he gave her a string of cultured pearls that didn't hang just right, when she showed this to him, he said, "Give them to me," but she said, "Oh, no you don't!"

Allene K. Russell 1917
Honey, I wish I could describe her wedding dress, but I'll do my best. It was made of a gray net with a pleated bodice, & had silver ribbons from the waist to the hem that were spaced evenly around a slightly full modified hoop skirt. She kept it for years, & when I was old enough she let me dress up in it until the net started to tear, so she put it in the garbage can. But that's how she felt about me. I can remember using some of the sterling silver spoons she let me use to dig in the back yard, so a few of them got lost.

I used to help her polish the silverware before Thanksgiving & Christmas when our relatives came for the holiday dinners. Those were the only times she would use the gold-banded dishes, & she always washed them herself, so, as far as I know, none of them got chipped. [Your sister] has the set & told me that she uses part of them occassionally [sic]. She also has her engagement cups.

At Christmas time she & I cracked walnuts & then I'd sell bags of them for money to buy gifts with. Then I'd go to the Woolworth's where I'd buy a 10 [cent] gift for all of them.

I spent many happy times with her--shelling peas & stringing & breaking into smaller pieces string beans.

L--, I remember that you were a Job's Daughter for a while. Will you please write & tell me what you can remember about it?

I joined when I was 13 & remained one until I reached 18, which was the oldest you could be. Your Aunt Jean was elected Honored Queen, & your Aunt Helene served as Senior Princess. I was the Musician for most of the time, but also was Recorder for one term.

Well, dear, I've used all my writing paper for now. Still waiting to get a letter from you.

Love you, love you, love you--

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