A Lifetime of Letters with My Mom

Updated: Jun 16

By Kerstin Rao





Writing letters is in my DNA. The tradition of family correspondence goes back to my Grandmother, and long into our history. Particularly since my ancestors came over from Sweden, Norway, and Poland. Years could go by without siblings seeing each other, so letters had to bridge the gap.


It makes sense that I’ve started a company that helps people stay in touch with beautiful greeting cards.


It’s in my DNA.


Let’s start with the first time I received a letter from my Mom. I was 17 years old and had just moved into my shared dorm room at Vassar College. Mom had been Class of ‘59, and from her stories, being a Vassar girl was clearly one of the happiest times of her life.


For me at 17, not so much.


I was homesick.


And so the letters came. I remember opening my grey post office box in Main Building and seeing my Mom’s handwriting on an envelope addressed to me. It brought sudden tears to my eyes.


I’m pretty sure I’ve kept every single letter from Mom over the years. I’m 57 now, so that’s 40 years worth. They fill two whole Bankers Boxes!





There were times I was silly when writing to Mom, or morose, or dramatic, or sad. I’m embarrassed to admit, sometimes I was angry and even hateful.


But Mom’s letters were always filled with stories of squirrels running around the property, or a new recipe for bread she was testing, or a funny story shared by one of her students. She’d recommend books, or describe a comically useless faculty meeting, or tell me something clever my younger sister Sarah had just done.


Mom’s letters were always a slice of home comfort.


Even when mine were sometimes laced with snark.


Classic mother-daughter stuff, yes?


Well, Mom is 85 this year. Her letters have become more fanciful as a touch of forgetfulness is settling in. She’s become a big fan of stickers. They are slightly weird Victorian stickers, and she puts them in randomly amid her sentences. Sometimes whatever beast is on the sticker becomes part of her narrative as if they are characters.


The letters still arrive in my mailbox.


Each one is kept.


Each one is precious.


Each one is a slice of home comfort.


I’m glad to say I abandoned snark in my 30s. Yes, I was a bit late to arrive at a new maturity, but I got there. My letters to Mom since then have squirrel antics, fun recipes I’m making, photos of sketches I’ve drawn, and I’ve recently added some stickers to make her smile.


I know these Bankers Boxes contain much more than paper.


One day, when no more letters will arrive from Mom, I’ll have an extraordinary time capsule of her words, her wit, and her spirit to keep me company.


Each one is precious.