There’s a charming German phrase, “Aus dem nähkästchen redden.” It means “out of the little sewing box.” I imagine old ladies knitting and gossiping as they sip tea.
Looking at other people’s personal and intimate letters certainly gives us a reason to use that phrase. Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keeffe and Eleanor Roosevelt were letter writers...the very best kind of letter writers. Their sewing box is open. Is it gossip if they’re dead? Are we snooping by reading the private letters of the three famous Americans? Well, they’re “out of the little sewing box” now so I suppose it’s alright...
Letters have always been something I’ve enjoyed writing and receiving. There is so much more of a person’s character and personality inside their letter versus an email, text…even a phone call. Through the letters of Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keeffe and Eleanor Roosevelt, we get a glimpse of their relationships and inside their heads.
My son Quincy shares the same birthday as Hemingway. I’ve read that Hemingway’s parents taught their children the importance of letter writing at an early age. I hope my children will write to me just as Hemingway did to his parents.
Hemingway holds my attention through his novels like no other writer but reading his letters, I feel I know HIM…the real Hemingway…and he was so caring (and funny). Reading letters to his family takes you into his heart.
Hemingway urged his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald to write to him in Pamplona: "Or dont you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something."
One letter to his mother made me laugh out loud written on September 8, 1914:
I got your card thanks very much. Our Train was 2.25 minutes late!! so no school.
The Program is all changed around lunch at a different time and alot of other changes. There was a report circulated around that I was drowned and some of my pals thot I was a ghost. May I PLEASE have SOME LONG PANTS. Every other Boy in our class has them, Lewie Clarahan Ignatz smith and every other little shrimp. My pants are so small every time I wiggle I think they are going to split. And I have about 8 or Ten inches of wrist below me cuffs thusly.
Please say I can have them long ones.
Your drowned son
P.S. My shirt buttons all fly off when I take a full Breath.
I feel a bit guilty reading Hemingway’s letters after knowing that it was his wish that the letters NOT be published. Hemingway wrote to his executors: “I hereby request and direct you not to publish, or consent to publication by others, of any such letters.”
I’m sorry Hemingway but I’m so happy that your sewing box is open!
Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz exchanged over 5,000 letters. Each letter makes the reader feel like they should not be reading such private details of their romance. That’s what letters do…exude romance.
One letter Georgia wrote to Alfred on July 11, 1916 shares how she feels about letters.
I think letters with so much humanness in them have never come to me before- I have wondered with everyone of them- what it is in them- how you put it in- or is it my imagination- seeing and feeling-finding what I want-
They seem to give me a great big quietness- that relieves the tension that I always seem to be feeling.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok (known as her “first friend” and referred to as Hick) became close in 1932 when Hickok, who was a reporter for The Associated Press, began covering Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidential campaign. They wrote letters to each other for twenty-nine years and dearly, dearly loved each other…and their country.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Lorena Hickok from The White House on March 30, 1934:
Darling, I love you & I have just marked five days off the calendar. May seems so far away & yet I know I’m going to be busy & so are you & it will pass but dear one when I sit here just before dinner I wish the door might open & let you in. I wonder if always I’m not going to feel that a day is incomplete which we don’t start & end it to-gether? Well, I don’t on paper anyway. So much, much love & bless you dearest one.
Letters are treasures. I’m so glad these letters are “Aus dem nähkästchen redden.”