Before there was Facebook my extended family kept in touch with Back Porch News. It was a yearly newsmagazine begun by my cousin Connie and then edited by various family members for over a decade. I haven’t kept all my issues, but the earliest one I have is from 1989 and the latest from 1999. Every year most of my seventeen cousins, my father, and each of his five sisters would write a letter detailing what had been going in their lives for the last 12 months. That usually amounted to around twenty letters. This was before computers and e-mail so the letters were printed, hand written, or typed, and mailed to the editor for the year who then photocopied them, collated them all into booklets and mailed the finished newsmagazine out to all family members. Sometimes the newsletters had themes. After my grandfather died we all included memories of him in our annual letters and we did the same thing after my cousin Connie died sharing our family memories of her. In one issue we all included lists of our favorite books.
In the issue shown here I found out that cousin Robert and his family had a new cocker spaniel named Sage. My brother Ken wrote about the six weeks he had spent in Peru working on an international development project. My cousin Fred was in Brussels doing editing work for a variety of non-profit organizations. My parents and my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Dave had just come back from a trip to Venezuela together. My cousin Bernie was teaching on a Hutterite colony. My sister Kaaren had been in San Fransisco presenting her ideas for nursing research at the National Cancer Institute. During the past year my cousin Charlotte had made trips to New York, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Miami and Philadelphia. My Aunt Helen reported that her wine making had gone well and there were plenty of bottles still in her basement if we wanted to try some. I announced the news that our family was moving to Arizona for a year to teach on the Hopi Indian Reservation.
Nowadays when I want to find out what my cousins are doing I just check their Facebook page. But before there was Facebook I read Back Porch News. My copies of our family newsmagazine hold great memories and provide an interesting record of more than a decade of family life.