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Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Demise of Letter Writing
This morning I went to my mailbox to mail a letter to my sister and brother-in-law to thank them for the Natalie MacMaster CD they'd sent me from Nova Scotia for my birthday. I could have emailed them my thanks, but a written letter seems warmer and more sincere. I think I'm close to becoming one of the last of the letter writers and that worries me.
Later I'll go to the mailbox and there will be my usual mail; flyers for local businesses, political please vote for me and donate while you're about it mail, letters wanting me to change my insurance or bank, magazines wanting a renewal even though my subscription doesn't expire for months and months yet. And then there's a plethora of letters wanting donations for every charity out there, some I've donated to in the past and others that got my name from one of the other charities. Most of them I feel guilty about tossing, but I'm limited on how much I can donate. The letters that annoy me the most are the ones for charities that announce it's a "Final Notice" in bright red letters. Those I'll never donate to because it's a blatant scam towards senior citizens who are already a little befuddled and believe it's an overdue bill.
Just maybe when I go to my mailbox today there will actually be a letter or postcard for me. My sisters and a sister-in-law still write letters, and I get thank-you letters from nieces, nephews and grandchildren. My youngest daughter sometimes writes to me as do several cousins. When real letters come mixed in with the junk mail and bills, it always brings a smile and eagerness to see what the writer has to say. It may be from a sister I'd just talked to a few days ago, but that doesn't matter. There's something special about a real letter.
Some years ago one of my sisters took every letter I'd written to her when she was in college and after she graduated and lived further away, and she put them in a scrapbook with a cover she'd hand quilted and gave it to me for Christmas. I treasure that gift because the letters were written during a busy time in my life when I was raising four kids all close in age and didn't keep a journal. There were so many things I wrote that happened and had forgotten about over the years.
What worries me about the dearth of letter writing today will be the loss of written records. I loved reading the letters of Emily Dickenson. What if she'd had email then? There would be no record of her thoughts and feelings about her life other than her poetry.And what if Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning had sent their love letters by email? Or worse yet, texted them; "How do I luv U?" In one of my book clubs last fall, we read Founding Mothers; the Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. So much of our history would have been lost were it not for those letters. Indeed what will the historians of the future do without letters to help them piece events together? Even letters from people, who were never famous, like the majority of soldiers who died on the battlefields in the Civil War, have added to our knowledge of the war because their letters sent home to their families were saved. Today historians lament the fact that Jane Austin asked her sister to burn all her letters when she died. So many questions about her remain unanswered. Will future historians lament the fact that so many people have given up writing letters?
I just came back from my mailbox. There was something from GoDaddy promising instant savings, a letter from a bank I have no account with promoting their money market account and Time Warner Cable telling me I'll get a better TV experience for only $29.99 per month. but along with those three missives to be tossed was a thank you note from one of my former students who'd graduated this year. Jocelyn sent me a personal and sweet thank you note. I'll save it like I do most handwritten messages.
Do you still write and send letters by snail mail? Do you like getting letters or postcards in the mail?
Today or tomorrow why don't you send someone a letter or even just a short note.