Who’s Got the Big Letter?

the-big-letter-MichiganBefore email and Facebook, Instagram and texting, there was “The Big Letter” for one extended Michigan family.

Since World War I, Dorothy Derheim’s relatives have circulated a packet of letters from one family member to another, passing on news and photos so everyone is kept up to date on what everyone else is doing.

Dorothy, now 87, remembers her mother yelling out the back door to her father, “Harvey, the big letter came.”

The big letter was a group of letters sent among Harvey and his brothers and sisters. “They all lived in Michigan, but back then, it might as well have been across the country,” said Dorothy to Mlive.com.

Her father and his eight siblings are gone, but the tradition of the big letter lives on among 22 families scattered among several states. When the bundle of letters arrives, each family reads the news, removes their last letter from the mix, adds a new one, and then sends the big letter on its way.

It’s not a lack of computer literacy that keeps the paper letters circulating. Most families type their news on a keyboard. But they are loathe to give up a tradition that maintains a tangible connection between the generations, family branches, and a century of letter writers and recipients who looked forward to the the big letter’s arrival in their mailbox.

PeachWhen my daughter was in first grade, her cousin Teal sent us a stuffed bear named Peach and an accompanying travel journal. The idea was to take Peach on a few local outings, write about them and then send the bear on its way to a new destination. A specified end date indicated when Peach had to be returned to Teal in Dallas so she could present her school report.

My daughter loved having Peach visit. The bear rode in the car with her and slept in her bed at night, and even paid a visit to show and tell at school one day. Imagine if Peach continued to circulate, bringing tales of new adventures on every pass?

Read the full article about the big letter here.

2 thoughts on “Who’s Got the Big Letter?

  1. jeanne lambson says:

    My siblings and I still do The Big Letter! We call it The Sibling Connection. Since there is a 17 year gap in ages between me and my next oldest sibling, some of them don’t do internet very well.

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