After Grandma El died in 1989, my father gave me the metal strong box she'd saved from the fire and carried with her down the icy fire escape to safety. (She was seventy-five at the time and, quite frankly, my heroine.) We lost most of our family photos in that fire. All that remained were the ones she literally pulled from the blaze.
Tucked in with my great-great-grandmother's will, grandpa's pocket watch, and other bits and pieces, was a torn, yellowing letter written by Grandma El to her son Mel (my dad) and her daughter Mona in August 1935. I'll be honest with you: I paid next-to-no attention to it. I mean, it was only a Having a great time, wish you were here kind of letter. A glorified postcard. Nothing noteworthy at all.
I'll admit I wondered about the "Daddy B" nickname for my Grandpa Bert (why would you attach a letter to Daddy?) but figured it was some English tradition and promptly forgot about it. I hadn't a clue that it was the key to the secret my family had been keeping for over fifty years.
Canadian Pacific Hotels
August 6th 1935
My Dearest Mona and Mel,
You see the big hotel on that witing paper -- well, that's where we are staying tonight until tomorrow evening. We have the suite I have marked on picture, overlooking the Duffin (?) Terrace. We walked all along it. I can't tell you how beautiful the Hotel is and all the wonderfuls cenery we have seen. Most all the people here speak French. We have such a beautiful bedroom and bathroom, great big rooms and the maid comes in and turns down the bed and puts out on the bed my nightdress and dressing gown. Mother wishes she was rich and be able to live like this always.
Tomorrow we go sightseeing all thru Quebec in private cars. Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Chateau Frontenac, then leave in the evening for Montreal and the boat but this time a different boat called the St. Lawrence. We have lovely cabins on the boat and such delicious meals. All French cooking. Mother & Daddy B eat like the devil. I will have to go on a diet when I come home. We come back to N.Y. Friday morning so if you want to, I would like to have a letter from both of you Send it to Brooklyn. I have lots and lots to tell you when I get back home.
Lots of Love & Kisses to you both from Daddy B and your ever loving Mother who misses you a whole lot
I hadn't a clue that what seemed to be a letter sent from a Canadian vacation was actually a letter sent from Grandma's honeymoon with the man I'd believed to be my biological grandfather!
See you next month!