46 Beacon Street, Boston

March 18th [1947]

Dear Phiddy:

So now here you are, a great big boy, five years old. I wonder whether anyone will think to give you five slaps and one to grow on? That’s what little children down South, at Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, always used to get on their birthdays.

As I can’t be with you on your birthday I’ve asked Mother to get a book for me to give you, and I think you’ll like it, because you liked the coyote book so much and we read it so many times. You might think Salt and Pepper are just two shakers to sit on the table, but this Salt and Pepper are two porcupines whose hearts were so full of love for Mr and Mrs Campbell that they pretty near stuck them and pricked them and tickled them to death. Well, you must get Mother to write and tell me how you like it.

Of course, there are so many books we liked together that it’s hard to say which is the nicest. We’ll never forget Mr. Tootwhistle, or Shuttle No. 2, or the Lamb that loaned his baa, or the little boy and the little girl that fell asleep on the rock, and then the rock grew up into a mountain, and if it hadn’t been for the measuring worm the little boy and the little girl never would have got down again, or Solomon in the antique shop, or the little boys and their sister who found the amber to make their mother a beautiful necklace, and ever so many beside. Not to speak of the ones I hated, like that nasty cruel Slovenly Peter, which I hope you’ll forget and naver read again.

You know, I was thinking about how much I’ve read to children. Long, long ago, when I was nine or ten, I began to read to my sister and my little brothers. And we had three cousins, the same ages, and I read to them too. And then we got four new cousins, much younger than we were, and I read and read to them. And then, my sister, who was your grandmother, grew up and married, and had two boys, one of whom is your daddy. And I read to them. And one of my cousins grew up too and married and had two girls and I read to them. And then they married, and had children, and you are one of those children, and my goodness me, how I have read to you. And, do you know, of all those many boys and girls I have read to, you, and Andy too, have been the very best listeners of all. Because every single, solitary one of those boys and girls I’ve been reading to for 65 years, mixed up their listening with something. They wriggled, they doodled, they yawned, they talked, they walked away and came back. And you, and Andy, LISTENED, you never did anything else so long as the old throat functioned. And so it was always a super-special joy to read to you. Pretty soon, in another two years or so you’ll be reading for yourself, but in the meantime, whenever I’m where you are I’ll still be reading, so long as you want me to, or I can, to the very best LISTENER, EXCEPT Andy, who ever lived.

Many happy returns of your birthday dear little Phiddy, is the wish of

Your loving aunt,

Erne