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Air Mail

By Trish Briggs


During my pre-teen years, I used to have the pleasure of spending a portion of my summer vacation with my maternal grandparents on their dairy farm. I knew they were Polish but didn’t have details about their heritage. I knew they came into New York state from Poland, via Ontario Canada. I didn’t know if they or their parents immigrated from Poland, nor did I know if their immigration was associated with one of the world wars. It was a topic that was never discussed, and I never thought to ask.


(Years later, I met another Polish lady, who was a child in Poland during the war and she told me that it was common practice to not talk about politics/war because of the real time consequences if you did. It was a habit ingrained even in the children.)


I would spend my visiting time with my grandmother while my grandfather worked the farm. To me this time was a glimpse into a magical world!


She taught me to crochet, quilt, tat, garden, and can food. I was enthralled with her creativity and the beauty of the things she made with her hands. She was not able to read English (and spoke broken English), however she could duplicate a quilt or doilies just from pictures. While watching a television show on their small black and white she would crochet a whole doily! She would sell the things she made along with flowers that she grew for some spending cash. Gladioli were her favorite flowers.


When the adults wanted to discuss something that they didn’t want the children to hear, they spoke in Polish. All her letters were in Polish. I did ask to learn Polish at one point but was discouraged because it was not a skill that they were proud of.

Interestingly, my grandmother shared many paranormal experiences and treated them as everyday commonplace occurrences. She thought nothing of sharing these kinds of stories whereas I was encouraged by my immediate family to keep similar stories on the down low. Most times she viewed the experiences almost as letters from loved ones giving her the latest news of either births or deaths. Spiritual Air Mail.


In one story, she related how her uncle would come to stay on the farm during the summer months. He couldn’t work the farm, so his contribution was to do the dishes every day and keep the kitchen ready for meals when he was there. One summer evening, (her uncle was not visiting) everyone came in late to eat. They were all very tired. It was the only time she could recall that everyone went to bed too tired to do the dishes and pick up the kitchen. In the morning, they woke to a clean kitchen with all the dishes washed and put away. She knew immediately that her uncle had visited to tell her that he had died.


In another story, she had a cousin living out west that was pregnant. My grandmother woke to see a ball of light in the corner of the room. The light got brighter. Off this bright light came two little balls of light. The two little lights glowed brightly separate from the first large ball of light. Then the big (first) ball of light dimmed and disappeared. My grandmother knew immediately that her cousin died after giving birth to twins.


In both stories, my grandmother shared she later got letters confirming and validating her. As a child, I asked why she got the messages in this manner. She explained to me the mail was very slow and unreliable back then. Sometimes she wouldn’t get a letter from her cousin for six months after it was mailed. She got spiritual "air mail" instead.

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