birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I come from a long line of letter writers and readers. I remember when I was working at the bank and we had to transfer all that information over to a computer. I have a big box in my attic full of letters written to and from loved ones. When my father died and we cleaned out his house, I found a box of rthe most romantic letters that he had written my mother when they were courting and when they were newlyweds. My father was an English major. We actually read poetry aloud at my house. I knew Emily Dickinson’s name as well as I knew Laura Ingalls Wider or Mary Travers. 
I never found myt mother’s responses to those letters but she was the practical one so I expect hers were tossed out in a fit of cleaning. 
My mother and grandmother had a relationship that was borne of obligation rather than a mutual admiration. Mind you this was a mother and daughter. But it was always clear that my grandmother liked men more than she liked women. She deferred always to my father rather than my mother, My father learned early not to respond to her unless he was willing to risk my mothers sighs which could be mistaken for a bell tolling somewhere. 
My grandmother was blind and lived with us part of every year. She became more opinionated and more inclined to share that opinion with every sip of bourbon. And she liked bourbon. 
My mother dutifully took her mother to Detroit and Toledo to visit with relatives on the maternal side of the family in the summer. After my grandmother’s last trip up there, my father began signing notes that he left for my mother with the initials nmwopsily at the end of the note. It made my mother smile but she always insisted that it didn’t mean anything and I got tired of asking what those initials meant.

Time passed and my grandmother died, leaving a wake of sadness and relief.
My family still exchanged letters and notes and added email to our repertoire- We had my father’s own poetry bound in a book for his grandchildren to enjoy- plus we couldn’t read his writing that well so we needed him to edit it
My mother developed dementia and became very pleasant and remotely interested in us. Her anger faded into the recesses of her mind. 
By this time, all of us knew what NMWOPSILY meant. 

During one of the trips up north to Detroit to see my grandmother’s brothers and his family, my mother had gone out with her cousins and upon her return, her uncle looked at my mother and said “I don’t care what other people may say, I love you, Mary.” My mother had come home and told my father how her own mother badmouthed her to the relatives and he began adding those initials to everything that he wrote her.

Whether it was due to all those bourbons, or simple denial, my grandmother seemed oblivious to her prejudice and continual judgement of my mother. For the people around my mother and grandmother, it was often painful but thanks to family letters and notes – it is now humorous mostly. 
The best behest from my parents has been the search for humor in the pain. The simple act of pining the clowns nose on the face of pain has been a hard learned but priceless and it offers me a connection still as vital as if they were still alive.


Linen love