April 28, 2013 § 4 Comments
For the past few days I have been thinking about what to write for this post. The month of April is almost over and nothing happened that I did not expect. My long planned trip to Europe to go visit my mother and attend my goddaughter’s wedding went smoothly and was very pleasant.
Yet I keep thinking a lot about those few weeks and if this month had a theme it would be Letters.
Letters are no longer part of our daily life the way they were when I was growing up. Now when I get mail other than bills, catalogs, miscellaneous printed matter, or mass mailings, I get intrigued, surprised and even suspicious. Is it real or just printed with fake handwriting masking an attempt to solicit or sell me something? Is it personal? Is it bringing news from friends or family? I can’t remember the last time I got a real letter, one that I had to open before I got to my house door, one that I didn’t know in advance what it would be about, one that I would want to put in my correspondence drawer and save.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not going to go on ranting about how we lost the art of writing or that we don’t communicate the way we used to. No, I think email is progress. And a great way to write and communicate. So fast and easy that we write often more than once a day to the same person, adding pictures, news clips, even video clips, without thinking about what the weight of the missive might cost in stamps, or having to date it, put the correct address and even use proper correspondence format and language.
And texting too. In fact I am fascinated with the huge creative and artistic potential this new way of expressing carries. Not to mention tweeting to millions of people at once individually, or as a group of millions, live and in the moment.
But Letters, handwritten, hand mailed, carried and delivered pieces of paper telling about their geographical, cultural and historic origin. Letters where the handwriting is as varied as the personalities of their authors, secretly revealing their state of mind or blatantly showing the level of their literacy. Letters as lasting physical objects. For example, the ones a soldier would carry in his coat for comfort, protection, identification, “love-sake,” or too often posthumous message. Letters that could nourish hope or express what could never be said.
So, this April, Letters had unusual and meaningful impacts for me. First, the letters of acceptance or rejection to colleges for my youngest child that finally came after long months of waiting and speculating. Then, Letters my sister and I took from the desk of my father, who died 6 month ago. The ones he wrote to my mother at the beginning of their courtship. The ones he received from us, his children, from summer vacations or when we were away at school. The Fathers’ Day cards or the seemingly random correspondence from his friends and colleagues. The condolance ones to my mother that my brother kept for me to read, many times revealing a side of my father I never knew from people I have never heard of. And finally the ones I wrote to him as a child, teenager, young wife, mother, as his daughter, ones he had kept in folders for each of his five children to retrieve and reread one day.