Nancy Roman

Letters From Home

Lest you think my family was being mean to my mother in poking fun at her lost Frank Sinatra record, let me tell you a little story about my mother’s sense of humor …

I was in college in the early 70’s.  No one had very much money, but you didn’t need much either.

My mother sent me a little cash every week.

She didn’t want me to have to go to the bank, so she’d mail cash. She’d fold it inside a sheet of paper, so no one could see that there was money in the envelope. She had some inexpensive stationery she had picked up at the five-and-ten (that’s like Wal-Mart, for you youngsters). It was a pale lavender with violets in the corners.  Just the sight of that lavender envelope in my mailbox cheered me right up. Usually there was a ten-dollar bill inside, but if Mom was feeling especially generous, there would be a twenty. That would be a red-letter day (in a purple envelope).

Unlike me, who can’t seem to stop writing, my mother hated to write. The most she would write on that folded lavender paper was:

With my weekly cash, I would go to the grocery store and buy bread, peanut butter, and tea bags. On weeks that I didn’t need tampax, I would buy a few other staples, like potato chips and yodels.  I could have a hamburger once a week instead of eating in the dorm. I liked this dark cellar hole of a restaurant where, when you picked up your hamburger, the grease ran down to your elbows.

And I could go to the movies for the student price of $0.99. (I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” six times during finals week, because Mom sent a twenty.)

Ah, the good old days.

So after five years as an undergrad (I changed my major a few times) my parents were a little anxious for me to graduate. But I decided that it might be a good idea to get my teacher’s certification. So I had to do an extra semester of student teaching.

Mom and Dad were practical people, and knew that teaching credentials were a good idea, but they had already put the three of us girls through school, and still had my brother to educate too. They were supportive of an additional semester, but they told me that I had to fund this one myself.

So I worked my ass off during the summer, and paid my tuition, and went off to teach in Puerto Rico. (Don’t ask me how I ended up there…but it was very cool.)

I lived a cheaply as possible. A nice family put me up, so I had plenty of peanut butter. I didn’t have any spending money, but I took the school bus with the kids, and went to the beach on the weekend. Pretty good, even broke.

And about a month into my semester, I got a letter from home. In my mother’s lavender and violet stationery!

She relented!  I would get a little money after all!

And I tore open the envelope, took out the single sheet of lavender paper, and read:


  1. Michelle Gillies

    Love it! Love your Mom’s sense of humour.


  2. What a jokester! (Although that WAS a little cruel….)
    I can relate to the five and dime; there was one in the nearest town to us. I remember the oiled floors and the smell of popcorn on Saturday mornings, Evening in Paris perfume in the little bottles….
    Later, a Ben Franklin came to town. The manager later became my first husband.


    • We had McClelland’s. But I loved Ben Franklin’s… even when I was really poor, I could decorate my Christmas tree.


  3. Now I know why you adore lavender nail polish!


  4. Oh, N. this is a fabulous story. What a funny Mom. I love the fact that she didn’t like to write, but her stories are told through you. Sweet.

    BTW, The Five and Dime stores of my childhood were Elmore’s 5 and 10 (WHERE on my keyboard is the cent symbol?) Ben Franklin’s 5 & 10 and Woolworth’s, although I think that was more of an upscale version since they had a soda fountain.

    Great story and perfect timing…My young college student just emailed asking for $50.00. Geez.


  5. My Dad would give me a ten or a twenty when he came to see me in college. It was folded in thirds and tucked in behind his driver’s license. I honestly think it was HIS spending money, as my step-mom didn’t agree with giving me a cent.


    • It must still make you smile to see a folded-up bill.


  6. hahaha I never doubted your mother’s sense of humor, but if doubting means we get more stories like this, then…then…she must be as a funny as an electric bill after a heat wave.


  7. bigsheepcommunications

    Love it!


  8. Great story! I love the fact that there was “special stationary” to carry those cash treats to you. I also love that she knew you’d be excited when you saw it arrive in Puerto Rico! Funny lady!!


    • She told me later that she was looking for a pen, and spotted the stationery in the drawer, and just couldn’t resist.


  9. Well, your mom sure has a sense of humour!

    A twenty was a lot of money then too! I especially like the last mail she couldn’t resist to sent you. I actually snorted and I don’t do that. (giggling now). The drawing was spot on too.


  10. Talk to me...I'm your Mother

    God Bless Mother! Especially the ones who love humor.


  11. Wow. No offense, but that’s cold. And funny. A little tough love there, hmmm?


    • After my initial shock, I thought it was hysterical.


  12. Moms are the most interesting creatures I know! But yes, your Mom is a league of her own. And I mean it in s good way.


  13. Your mother is a comic genius. And as they say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.


  14. What a wonderful sense of humor she has!

    As the mom of a current college student, the money still does go in that direction. I occasionally send a card or a note with a $20 in it — but since nobody sends mail any more my son rarely goes to get his mail. The banana bread I sent for him during his finals last semester (we call it “exam-a-bread”) was returned to us here at home during his Christmas break. Oy.


    • We lived for mail. We couldn’t even afford phone calls. Times change.


  15. You must have inherited your sense of humor from your mom!! On a more serious note – you must have been devastated!!!


  16. I really love your mom. And, I adore your writing style!


  17. pharphelonus

    LOL. Love that mom of yours.


  18. OK. I know this is from 2012. But I love it. I went to college in the same period and my mom wrote to me every week. Loved getting those letters in my dorm mailbox. No money, at least not that I remember, but loved it anyway. This brought back great memories.


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