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Monday, June 5, 2017

Dear Readers

by Shari Randall

Does anyone write letters anymore? 

One of my daily treats is the walk from Musty Manor to the post office. We don’t have mail delivery in my neighborhood. Everyone goes to the casino to check their mailbox and visit with Heather, the postmistress of the miniature post office. Yes, I did say casino. The building is called the casino but there are no slot machines or games of chance, other than what might show up in your mailbox.

Even in the short time we’ve lived here, I’ve noticed that my mail has dwindled, and dwindled into four types: junk, my Talbot’s catalogs (they were the only business wily enough to find me at my new address), Official Stuff (bills, tax, voting), and the rare Good Stuff (packages and personal missives). In December the good stuff still included holiday cards from the diehards, but the rest of the year, the Good Stuff is letters or cards.

I still adore receiving a birthday card (hint, hint) but birthday cards and party invitations have mostly made the leap to digital and they’re not going back. Many of my nieces and nephews are of marrying age, and there is still nothing like the hefty wedding invitation. This is the only thing that the young folks consider mail worthy.

Being of A Certain Age, I remember letters. Phone calls used to be too expensive and stamps used to be cheap, so faraway friends would write page after page of news and gossip. What a treat to find a letter from a friend in the mailbox.

Even better were love letters. I’ll bet that many of you have letters tucked away, letters tied with a ribbon. Letters too precious to open again, too precious to discard. Now I like my tech, thank you very much, but I wonder how a tweet or a text message stacks up against a real love letter. Feelings put into words, and words onto paper, made emotions tangible and permanent. Proof. Words you could save and savor, decades later.

Donne wrote, “letters mingle souls.” Do texts mingle souls?

When I visited Wellesley College for my daughter’s graduation, we went to the campus library. The library displays the actual mahogany door to Elizabeth Barrett’s family home at 50 Wimpole Street in London. Through the mail slot passed 573 letters from the man who would be her husband, poet Robert Browning. Those letters are now available to the public through a partnership between Wellesley and Baylor University. Will I read them? I don’t think so. Even dead poets deserve some privacy.

Do you write actual pen to paper letters anymore?


Jim Jackson said...

I do have letters tied in a ribbon sitting in a box somewhere, but since they have nothing to do with my current squeeze, the next time I find them, I should probably shred them unread.

My mother recently gave me back a bunch of letters I had written home from camp and college. The early ones were a hoot.

~ Jim

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I turn my flower photos into cards for friends, particularly those with long-term illnesses, and send them out once a week. I also donate 250 cards every year to a fundraising auction for college scholarships.

I regularly contribute cards to "Girls Love Mail", an organization that gives newly diagnosed breast cancer patients a caring handwritten note.

So yes, I'm a believer in the healing power of a handwritten card.

Warren Bull said...

I used to, but since I married my sweetie, not often.

KM Rockwood said...

I write (and receive) a fair number of letters.

I do have two friends who prefer snail-mail letters, and two who are not tech-savvy (do not own computers or other electronic devices.)

But, really, all you need are a number of friends who are incarcerated, and letters are the best way to keep in touch. No access to electronic devices; phone calls are handled by a private for profit company that gives the prison a hefty return, so that a brief call can run well over $20, and visits are restricted, a hassle and a drive away. Letters rule.

I don't have any love letters stored away or anything like that. We are not particularly sentimental types, and don't hang onto things like that (we don't remember our wedding anniversary unless one of the kids mentions it.)

Gloria Alden said...

I used to write lots of letters in the days before email. I still do write the occasional letters. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was from one of my sisters, who made an album of the letters I'd sent her when she was in college. She made a quilted cover for it. I stopped
writing a daily journal when I got married, so this brings back precious memories of what I was doing while raising my four youngsters.

At Christmas I send at least 60 Christmas cards and probably half of them have messages or letters inside of them written by hand. Recently, instead of sending my Washington State sister a long email, instead I wrote a very long letter and sent it. Somewhere in my drawer I have love letters to and from the guy I eventually married.

As for a post office, although I do have a mail box, I love going to our little post office less than a mile away to mail packages or get stamps. The sad part is the postmaster said they'll probably be closed down sometime in the next three years. The woman who delivers my mail is so friendly, and when she delivers a package to me, she says a few minutes to talk and gives a treat to Maggie. One day she left a dog biscuit in my mailbox with a note that it was for Maggie. It's so sad that the mail service is hurting because of the internet. Like you, I love getting something in the mail that's not junk mail or bills.

carla said...

I love getting letters but I'm terrible at sending them. I don't want this to be a lost, forgotten art!
PS Once when I was in college a blew up a balloon, wrote a letter to a friend, deflated it and mailed it. He called and complained: "Imagine how stupid I looked blowing up a balloon in the Post office to read what you wrote!" My reply: "Why didn't you blow it up back in your room???

Kait said...

I love writing letters and receiving them, but I admit that over the years my handwriting has deteriorated to the point where people probably do need the decoder ring! There is something precious about the time it takes to put pen to paper and actually write a letter, and something that suggests that the act of writing takes more thought than the act of e-mailing. Silly, but there it is.