A letter from my Father when I was in College (3/19/1990)

DEAR JACK, ANDY, MATT, BETTY, YEAH JENNIFER TOO I GUESS, 3/19/90

UNPACKING OLD MEMORIES

LAST WEEK WHEN YOU ALL WERE HOME WE WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING FROM OUR STOREROOM UPSTAIRS AT GRANDPA HINDS’ OFFICE. FORGOT WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR NOW. ANYWAY IT WAS FUN. WE HAVE STUFF STORED UP THERE FROM OUR PEACE CORPS DAYS (’62-’64), SOME FROM WHEN WE LEFT FOR ALASKA (’70), SOME FROM WHEN WE WERE HOME ON SABATICAL LEAVE (’82-’83) AND A LOT FROM WE RETIRED FROM ALASKA TWO YEARS AGO. LOTS OF FUN STUFF THAT MEANS A LOT TO US, BUT WHICH DOESN’T HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF VALUE AND PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN THROWN AWAY YEARS AGO, YOU KNOW THE KIND OF STUFF. I HAD THE SOLUTION TO THE EVER INCREASING MASS OF STUFF A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN WE WERE PACKING. I TOLD PEGGY THAT I SHOULD PACK HER STUFF, AND SHE SHOULD PACK MINE, AND WE’D EACH HAVE FULL AUTHORITY TO THROW STUFF AWAY. SHE WOULDN’T AGREE. I FIGURE I’VE GOT ONE ON HER NOW. NEVER AGAIN WILL SHE BE ABLE TO BLAME ME FOR ALL THIS PLUNDER WE HAVE STORED ALL OVER THE PLACE. WE’VE GOT ANOTHER LARGE PILE OF STUFF STORED OUT IN KANSAS, FROM OTHER VENTURES OUT THAT WAY.

ANYWAY, BACK ON TRACK NOW, WE (JACK MATT AND I) WERE GOING THROUGH OUR STUFF AND HAVING A REAL BLAST RECALLIN THINGS WE WERE DOING BACK WHEN WE USED THIS OR THAT. MATT EJOYED THE OLD TOYS AND CONTRAPTIONS HE MADE OUT OF CARDBOARD, ALUMINUM FOIL AND 2 LITER BOTTLES, (SPACE SHIPS AND STUFF). Jack had fun looking at old books, clothes, classic comics and the old steering wheel bike. I enjoyed all of these things too. But the one box I brought home to unpack and use was the one containing our special “nik-nak” things from the shelves by the TV in Barrow. That’s where we kept a bunch of our special treasures, things that brought back nice memories, and were usually good conversation starters, African things, Indiana things, Alaskan things.

You are all back at college now and I’m sitting here by the fireplace thinking of all the fun we had together. This morning I just had to look into my box of “treasures” to see if my favorite African wood carving was there… It was… I’m sitting here holding it now. You might say it wasn’t very outstanding, less than a foot high. It’s a little African boy playing a drum. What makes it special? I made it special!! It was the summer of ’63. Your mom and I were touring east Africa after teaching our first year in Ethiopia. We traveled through Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, mainly riding second class on the buses, and third class on the trains. That’s a whole story in itself.

Back to the drummer boy: we were in a large wood carving market in Nairobi. We’d just purchased quite a few wood carvings for ourselves and as gifts, probably as much as a couple hundred dollars worth. We had gotten along well with the owner, even with a fair amount of bargaining, as you all would probably expect from me. When we had it all totaled up the owner said, “Since you have been such a good customer, I’ll let you pick out anything you want as my gift to you”… WOW! This was a large shop, probably had a couple thousand carvings there. It was a challenge. Some of them were really large, really expensive: Large animals, fancy masks, all kinds of stuff. But on the other hand we had to carry it around for a couple weeks yet or pay the cost of mailing home or back to Ethiopia. It was hard to decide. The shop owner had made the offer to me and believe it or not your mom was surprisingly quiet and I had to, or got to, decide on my own. We had seen a large outdoor woodcarving “Factory” and were aware that there are many carvings that are very popular, and also very similar. The Gazelle is a good example. It’s a nice carving and everyone going to Africa should have one but I wasn’t going to pick something so “common”. I wanted something sorta medium sized and something different. I think I looked at everything in the shop and finally picked the little drummer boy. The wood was sort of chocolate brown instead of the ebony color of most of the carvings, it was not polished up nearly as smooth and fancy as most in the shop and I liked that. It had more of a realistic down to earth feel to it. But as I sit here today, 27 years later, and feel and look at it, I know I like it because it is very special, very unique, one of a kind. There was no other like it in the whole shop.

It’s easy today for my mind to go back to those dry suns-wept grassy plains, full of thousands of wild animals exotic smells sounds and sights, back to when your mom and I were young and energetic, (like you are all today), to when we basked on the beaches of Mombasa, rode all around the spice island of Zanzibar on a Vespa, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and looked down on the vast exciting, changing continent of Africa.

One of the cute things we did, mostly just for fun, was to carry with us, for almost a month, a stalk of bananas. They didn’t ripen all at once, but started one or two, each day. At each stop, we’d get off with our duffel bags, the white Samsonite suitcase and our slowly diminishing stalk of bananas. At the end of our summer vacation, we still had about a fourth of our stalk left. We left it with an African boy at the hotel where we stayed last.

Today, Mike, our neighbor and I were discussing deep matters. Talking about what it takes to make a neat family or to raise neat kids. He’s starting his family now and was impressed with you boys over the weekend. I th ink Mike is pretty wise. One cannot but admire the wisdom of those who ask out advise (a Grandpa Hinds quote).

Matt, Mike thought you were interesting to talk to, rather intense and rather single minded on a project (the plastic gate and the shop smith). Jack, he thought you were more interested in farming, more relaxed, more Alaska oriented. Betty, I told Mike about all the cute notes you’d left around the house when you went back to Arkansas with the gang. One at the top of Mom’s closet saying, “Have a good day Mom, I love your outfit”, in the oatmeal box saying, “wish I was there to have some of your yummy oatmeal, dad,” on Mom’s hairspray saying, “your hair looks great mom, have a nice day at work,” on the clock radio beside the bed said, “Goodnight, I love you mom and dad.” He said something about you being very imaginative and creative, and thoughtful.

Andy, Mike asked if you were like Matt or like Jack. What do you suppose I told him? I said, “No, he’s not like Matt or like Jack. Andy’s not like anybody!”

Mike said, “That’s amazing isn’t it?”

I said, ,”yeah, it is. It’s amazing that our kids have a lot of things alike, but they are so different in so many ways.”

Jack and I were watching a TV show a year or so ago that was trying to figure out why some parents were so successful and other rather good people were failures as parents. Toward the end of the program, someone brought up the rather revolutionary idea that “good children make good parents:” The whole egg before the chicken idea. Jack latched right on to that that idea. Who knows??

It’s truly amazing that each one of you is so neat, so wonderful in your own ways. We’re very thankful that we had good children to make us look like good parents. Thanks to each one of you, and do whoever else out there is responsible.

You know what I think? Now, listen up! Here it comes!! I think that each of you is very special, very unique, and one of a kind. I think that God picked out each of you just for us! And, I think that he had a very huge shop to choose from!

May God bless each one of you richly from his huge shop, may you each have rich, full, and exciting lives with someone very special to share them with, and may you never run out of bananas.

Very much love—Ole Dad.

HEY MUM [this letter was found in Dad’s mom’s things in storage, after she died],

THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO SEE THIS, EVEN THOUGH IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE TO THE KIDS. LOVE, BUD

REALLY APPRECIATED YOUR ANSWER TO MY ROLLING STONES LETTER. COULDN’T QUITE TELL IF YOU WERE FOR ‘EM OR AGAINST ‘EM. BUT I’M NOT SURE, SOME DAYS, WHETHER I AM OR NOT EITHER.

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