I Believe in Letters
I believe in letters
Every day I walk out to the mailbox to retrieve the days offering, hoping for a real letter; news from an old friend, distant cousin, or aged aunt. It is not that I don’t hear from people. I do. Through e-mails, phone calls, or long weekend calls when we are “using up” our minutes on our cell phones, multi tasked with walking the dog.
As I walk back from the mailbox, I flip through the pile of mail each day glancing at the return addresses. AT&T bill, gas bill, water bill, bank statement, investment statement, query from a life insurance company. One day last week as I was leafing through the usual stack of important, though emotionally unfulfilling mail, I saw a hand addresses square envelope. I was excited. A real letter. I ripped it open and discovered that it was actually just an offer from a credit card company. What disappointment. It annoyed me that this company would use a handwriting style font as a means to get the recipients to actually open their offer. It seemed so dishonest. I did get me thinking about letter writing though.
A real letter do you remember those? Recognizing the handwriting on the address, feeling the weight of the envelope you could tell immediately if it was filled with news or was simply a short note to let you know that the sender was thinking about you. Somehow having a letter to hold in your hands, to toss in a shoebox and reminisce over years later is so much more fulfilling than reading a quickie e-mail off the computer.
How often do we send or receive a letter anymore? Holidays certainly, birthdays if we remember in time. Every year I faithful start writing Christmas cards the first week of December. I write a few each day, trying to write a small personal note in each one. A synopsis of our year squeezed in and around the printed holiday greeting. I enclose a photo of the kids so that family and friends far away can see how they have grown and changed. I wait to receive Christmas cards in the mail; trying to guess which friend will be the first to get hers mailed out. It is generally a retired older aunt that has the luxury of time to complete her cards early, next it is the Martha Stewart over-achiever-mom friend, who hand stamped her cards back in July and has waited to send them out the day after Thanksgiving. I love to receive Christmas cards, but I would rather be surprised and get letters at random times throughout the year.
My grandmother passed away a year before I was born, but I still feel that I really know who she was. How? Through letters she wrote during the course of her life to various people who saved them and I have since had the pleasure of reading. My grandmother wrote long letters to my mother while she was a way at college. Through these letters I learned what was important to my grandmother, what her sense of humor was, what her style was, funny anecdotes of daily living that would have been long forgotten had they not been recorded in these letters for the amusement of my mother in 1957. I still have these letters, a link to the past, which helps me understand many things, who Dorothy was, history, genetics, nurture vs. nature, how I have become who I am.
Will our e-mails to friends and family survive the years and provide that type of context to our lives that my grandmother’s letters have? Probably not. We will delete them and our link to the future.
My mother is a great letter writer as well. As a young woman during the Kennedy administration she admired the style of the lovely First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. My mother read somewhere that Mrs. Kennedy had a signature light blue stationary which she used for all her correspondence. My mother was so inspired by this she decided to do that as well. I have kept many of my mother’s letters over the years and when I look through my keepsake box, I can quickly see my mother’s letters in their light blue envelopes.
Have we become so much busier now that we simply can’t afford the time to keep in touch through letters. Studies indicate that we are busier now than 30 years ago. Most married couples both work out side the home, children are all involved in a multitude of extra curricular activities. We run from dawn to dusk it seems. I believe we can still find time to write letters though, and to have the pleasure of receiving them. It just takes will and time management. When I took my daughter to have her braces adjusted this week, instead of reaching for an old copy of People magazine, I wrote a letter to an old high school friend. While waiting for my son at soccer practice, I wrote to my aunt. I told her how much I loved going with her to explore tide-pools when I was six. It just takes a moment to bring a smile to someone’s face and isn’t that what life is really all about?