Friday, August 14, 2009


I don’t know the year my four sisters and I started a Round Robin letter, maybe back in the mid-1980s or so. But in the spring of 1991, 18 years ago, I began saving my letters.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term ‘Round Robin,’ in my family, we use it to describe our family correspondence. Every time the fat-enveloped Round Robin comes to my house, I take out the letter I wrote previously, add a new letter with the new news, and then send the pack of letters on to my sister Laurie (who writes a letter and sends it on to another sister, etc.). It’s how we stay caught up with family news. A few years ago, we added my brother and mother to the Round Robin rotation, so now there are seven letters making the rounds.

In 1991, I was about to throw away my old letter as I added my new letter like I always did, but impulsively decided to save it. After that, I started keeping all my letters in a notebook. This morning I counted my Round Robin letters and found that I have 84 letters, a running commentary on the comings and goings of my family during the past 18 years.

The first letter, dated in the spring of 1991, catches my now-grown children in 4th, 5th, and 9th grades. I wrote this about my youngest daughter, who is currently an elementary teacher in Casa Grande, Arizona: “Her favorite thing is to play with her dolls. She is playing ball and taking swimming lessons this summer, not because she particularly wants to, but because she can’t play dolls continually. She wants to be a pediatric nurse when she grows up for two reasons: 1) she just learned how to pronounce it, and 2) she thinks it might be kind of like playing with dolls.”

In 1991, my middle daughter, who is currently a school social worker in the Mound/Westonka School District, was having a spectacular year in 5th grade, gaining confidence and maturity: “Her teacher this year is a wonderful, creative woman who made Shannon blossom. I love it when the kids have years like that.” Unfortunately, that 1991 comment jinxed something because a Round Robin letter in 1992 tells about Shannon’s 6th grade teacher-from-hell. If I remember right, the teacher was fired (or quit) sometime in the middle of the school year.

A letter in January1997, tells about when our son Ryan, who is currently an Air Force fighter pilot, traveled through blizzard conditions in both Minnesota and Colorado to return to the Air Force Academy after Christmas break. I wrote in the Round Robin: “He has started flying now this semester (one of his eight classes!!) in a T-3 trainer plane. The email we got the day he flew for the first time was the happiest email he has sent home in 2 ½ years [at the Academy]. It was worth the pain!”

In the spring of 1991 (and every spring, for that matter), Tom had just gotten back from Baudette, Minnesota, where he and eight other men had been fishing over opening weekend (some things never change). And I was finishing up teaching spring term and was enrolled in 12 credits of summer school in a master’s program. No summer tan that year.

When I read through those Round Robin letters, I can’t imagine how we managed to get everything done. I suppose we were younger and more energetic—and maybe there were more hours in the day back then, more days in the week.

I don’t know what will eventually happen to all these Round Robin letters. I suppose my sisters, brother, mother, and I will keep writing them until we’re all too old to hold a pen or type the words on our computer keyboards.

And someday, I imagine my kids will be stuck with sorting through my ‘treasures,’ asking each other, “Why in the world did she save all this junk?!?”

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Round Robin Letters! I thought my mom was the only person who did that! She was the youngest of 10 kids, and is the only one remaining at 88 years old. The RR went around and around for 50 years. Ah, great memories! She didn't keep hers as a memento though--wouldn't that have been a great historical record if she had?