Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Family Letter

HHBL's family has a really awesome tradition that has been in existence for, I think, over 70 years now. They have a "revolving family letter".

What is a revolving letter you might ask. You were asking that I know so I will explain it to you as I know the story. Around 70 years ago (give or take a year) there were 5 siblings (one of whom was my father-in-law's father) who wanted to keep closer contact with each other as they didn't all live in close proximity. So they decided that they would start what has come to be known as "The Family Letter".

This is how the whole system works.

- the letter arrives at your house.
- the installment that you wrote is on the top of the stack of letters. You take that off and throw it out after re-reading what you wrote the last time.
- you read through all the other letters from the participants
- you write your next installment and put in on the bottom of the pile. If there are any pictures that you want to add then do that.
- you send the "letter" on to the next participant whose last letter should now be on top of the pile.


But this is such a cool idea I can tell you. There are currently 16 families participating in the revolving letter. We have children and grandchildren of the original founders, relatives by marriage who carry on when the spouse dies. It is open to all. The letter travels to places like Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Arizona, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, New York, Georgia and places in between.

Ideally the letter would come to you every 6 months but that doesn't always happen. Sometimes people aren't overly quick on writing their updates and mailing the letter on. Things happen, the letter gets stuck in a pile of other things. Not that this has ever happened at our house mind you. No siree, I hop right on that letter and get it done. Like lightning. Swiftly. Without delay. Uh huh, sure.

Some people produce their letters on the computer, some write by hand, some type them up the old fashioned way...on a typewriter! We may pull John into the modern age some day......or maybe not.

The WORST words in the world to hear are, "I think that the Family Letter has been lost." That small phrase strikes fear in the hearts of all of us because then you have to resurrect the letter as best as you can. There is someone who has the master "send to" list thank goodness but it is a major disaster. Thankfully it has only happened once in the time that we have been participating and it wasn't me who did it.

It isn't that we don't see each other on a regular basis because we do, we just don't see everybody. I saw most of the people in the family in June when we were all together in Park City but some were not able to come and so this is the way that we know that Paul and Beth's kids are growing up, that Margaret has died but that hopefully her son might take her place in the letter chain, that Chris and Jeff's kids are all out of the house now and branching out into the world. That Bunt and Anne are still enjoying life in Hawaii (who wouldn't!).

Now, it has showed up at our house again and it is time to sit down and write our installment. HHBL had always allowed me to be the letter writer in the family and for that I am very grateful. This letter has been a way to get to know some of his more far flung relatives. When we meet up every other year there is always someone who goes, "Oh! You are the Ohio branch of the family. I know what is happening because I have read The Family Letter."

I just love The Family Letter.


  1. Wow-that is such a great story. It makes me want to sit down and start one of these in my own family.

  2. This is awesome!!!! I would LOVE this.

  3. That is the coolest thing I have ever heard.

    I want to start a family letter.

    Maybe I'll start a friend-family letter... or a blog family letter or college family letter or.. I don't know, I just want to participate in something like that!!

  4. What a great tradition. I love this idea! -Tammy

  5. I've never heard of such a thing before and I think it's fantastic! It makes me think I should start A Family Letter with my own family.

  6. What an awesome idea! I would LOVE to do that with my family--only I'd like to travel back in time and start it about twenty years ago. I'll have to think about starting one of these! And thanks for becoming Lucky #13 on my Followers list! :-)

  7. This is so creative! What an awesome idea...I should present this to my mom - the organizer - and tell her to get started :)


Thank you SOOO much for commenting. We bloggers, of which I am such a minnow in such a big pond, live for our comments.