First letter: Easter 1950
“We were on a train for many days,” she wrote, in a beautiful handwriting. “We slept and ate on the train. We saw mountains, open land unfolding for ever and ever, a cluster of houses here and there, then, out of nowhere, wild beasts rushing through the prairie, galloping faster than the train. Nothing but land wherever the eyes stopped. I couldn’t wait to get to my destination, to go to Heaven. Heaven is called Montana, close to God, the clouds. wars."
Tina is very thin, chestnut hair around dark eyes. I am tiny and with a frightened look. This was not a photograph I had ever seen.
The next letter is a month later.
“I’m worried about little Silvia. I’m so glad everything is behind us, the fights, the gossip.”
I savor each line, each connection. Why she worried about me is not explained. I read carefully, and yet voraciously.
I read and reread. I fall asleep. I wake in the middle of the night, turn the lamp by the bed, and I read some more.
Each letter is a stage of my life I do not recollect.
She talks about the house, the animals, the planting, and then always about me. “Silvia is getting along. I made the right decision.”
I was reading with a fever pace, quickly, skipping lines, words I didn’t know, looking for something. I wanted to breathe in the life that was right next to me. If a letter contained a certain incident I remembered, I read it again and again.
It was morning when I stopped reading.