A Revival of Letter Writing
When I was in high school there was a letter writing course offered in my department. I don’t remember why I didn’t take said course, but ever since I’ve wished I had. How could would that be to say, “yes, I passed a course on letter writing.” Letters are great things. Who doesn’t love getting something in the mail in an non-official looking envelope with a hand written address on it? It’s a dying art, which makes more sense than I’d like to admit. When you have at least five different, much faster, text based ways to send a message to someone, the thought of waiting a week or so for a reply is kind of frustrating. Still, for it’s simplicity, beauty, and the sheer joy it can bring, I think letter writing should be continued.
In fourth and fifth grade I had a best friend who started sending me letters. This was back in the day when you had to call someone on the phone to have a long chat with them and wait ten minutes for the internet to connect. It was summer and she live probably fifteen minutes from me, tops, and we called and hung out a lot that summer regardless of the letters, and yet, somehow we made it work. It was great. I don’t remember a single thing we wrote in the letters, except a discussion about what animals we would be, but I remember having a lot of fun with it. I guess it seemed easier back then. Sure we talked on the phone and hung out that summer, but there was a void to be filled by letters, however small it might have been. Now there is no void; no space at all. You can call, text, message, PM, or e-mail anyone you know for more or less instant communication. There is no reason to wait and no information that you could put in there that wouldn’t be better communicated in another way.
However, I am still drawn to this older form of connection. Every time I watch a period piece or read Jane Austen and see them getting long letters about everything happening in a friend or relative’s life I think, now why can’t I do that? It’s this overly romanticized notion in my head, I know, but how could would that be? I sometimes think about how my children and grandchildren will never go through our stuff someday and find old love letters from when we were young. There are two in existence, written as a Valentines gift and an anniversary gift. That’s it, just two, hiding in one of my many boxes. I realize that it’s actually really hard to write love letters. Conveying feelings is a challenging feat, but when that’s your only option, it leaves a terribly romantic memento.
I’ve been sawing for about a year now that I want to get into letter writing. The beautiful thing about having friends who are also writers is that you always have people who will appreciate a handwritten letter. Which is good, because we don’t have a printer. I kept saying, after the wedding, I’ll start writing letters. And then I got married and moved into a new apartment and got lost in the unpacking and figuring out what to do with my life. Then I said, okay, I’ll start letter writing when I get a desk to write on. I had this great romantic idea of sitting by the window at my desk, covered in paper and pen holders and things, and writing letters to all my friends. But of course that had to wait for the back room to be clean and then to get a desk and when I finally got the desk, I didn’t have a chair. One was finally stolen from the dining room set and still I hadn’t started my letter writing. My latest excuse was the large laptop my husband put on my desk, leaving no room for proper writing. Then we went to the arts festival.
I can’t tell you what I saw there, exactly, but in their various forms, they were cards; perfect little pictures to send to people they reminded me of, and the perfect little opening to go with it. It’s much easier to write a letter when you have something solid to open with. I have no trouble rambling once I get started, as you’ve all noticed by now. It’s just the openings that get me. The arts festival solved that for me and I’ve sent off two letters this week already. Sure, they were just enough to fill the cards, but it felt so good to write them and address them and put a stamp on each and send them off to make someone smile. I think I shall keep doing it.
We’ll see if I get any responses. I realize that I am a special case of idleness among my friends. Most are off doing grad school and working and being real adult humans and have little time to sit down and write a letter by hand. But I hope some do. And if they don’t, I hope they don’t mind if I keep sending letters. I don’t know if I’ll have a lot to say, but I’m sure I’ll find something. If I can be that person who always sends a cheering card, that would be okay with me.