Friday, April 13, 2012

LETTERS (A-Z April Blog Challenge)

I love to write letters.  Long hand, cursive, lengthy letters.  And I love receiving them.  Only a delivery of flowers gets my heart racing more than finding a letter in the mailbox.  (The letters are rare, and the flowers rarer still which makes them all the more special!)

In elementary school I had a few teachers who started pen-pal programs, and although they all eventually petered out, I never lost the love of writing to someone and waiting for their reply.  In high school, I became good friends with an exchange student from Australia.  We were basically inseparable for the year she was here and I envisioned a lifelong pen-pal at last.  However, she moved a few times after returning to Australia and I lost the address chain.  Thirty years later, I still feel a measure of sadness of losing that tie with her. 


Just a couple of my letter binders.
My parents lived in Florida for ten years, and mom and I had a remarkable letter writing run.  They moved back to Grand Island, our letter writing stopped, but I saved all her letters in a binder.  When she and my dad passed in 2009, and I went through their things, I found all my letters to her.  They are now in the binder together, our chronological communication over ten years right there in black and white for me to read whenever I want.  There’s an intimacy to letters, sometimes even more than a conversation and I hear her voice as I reread them.  A lasting gift she never knew she was giving me.

Along with all of the letters I’d written her, I found a draft of every single letter that she wrote me.  Then I found drafts to other people and realized that she wrote drafts for basically everything she wrote – whether a letter to the editor, a note card to a friend or a full length letter.  When I compared her drafts to my letters, I found they were basically word for word to the ;etter I’d received.  Very rarely did she change anything, but it showed me how much each word meant to her and she wanted to be sure her words properly expressed what she was trying to convey. 

A few of my dad's letters.
Another binder holds 19 letters over a six week time span that my dad wrote to my mom while he was at trade school two months before they got married.  He missed her terribly and over the six weeks, poured out his heart and a young man’s desire for his beloved.  They are a tender reflection of the love and yes, passion that a child doesn’t often get to glimpse of their parents.  When I found the letters in an old hope chest I was storing for mom I sent them to her unread.  She sent them back and said she wanted me to have them and that maybe someday; they would be useful to craft into a story.  I still blush when I read my father’s writing, but am honored to be trusted with them and someday will do them justice. 

Years ago when Abram started college, I started writing him.  It’s nice to sit down and just chat away with pen and paper about how my day has been, what’s happening on the home front or share an idea I have for my writing.  So every few weeks, he gets a few pages of my thoughts and other odds and ends. And now that he’s out of college, the letters continue and probably will until I can’t write anymore.

I know the list of ways to communicate today - the internet and email and instant messaging and blogging and a handful of ways I don’t even know about I’m sure – is growing rapidly.  But for me, nothing counters the relaxation, intimacy and connection I derive from putting pen to paper. It’s basic. It’s black and white. And it’s lasting.

21 comments:

  1. Yeah, gone for the most part are the handwritten letters of yesteryear. I used to have pen pals as well, but have lost contact with all of them.

    Written letters are more personable, unlike emails and the like. I once found an old crate in a yard sale. It was full of junk that I bought for like $5.

    Inside and stashed away were a collection of letters from WW2, between a soldier and his wife. Wow, they ere hard to put down, much less get them in any order.

    Kep writing by hand, don't let the art die out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That collection of letters - what a goldmine! (I'm jealous...) Your site is great and beautifully put together. Loved the A-Z challenge nod to writing about books. Looking forward to getting your suggestions regularly and to reading White Lies.

      Delete
  2. A woman after my own heart!!!
    I agree with you - 100%.
    I'm involved in a handwritten letters project and have linked it to this comment (if you have time, you can check it out)
    Enjoy the rest of A to Z...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Michelle. read about the project and it sounds great - hope you enjoy it!

      Delete
  3. In my mind, the smell and feel of a crisp piece of stationary that hasn't been inked is precious. Putting those first few words down on it--knowing that the receiver will hold, feel, smell, read, and reflect upon your words--so priceless.

    There is nothing more thrilling for me than to receive a real letter in the mail. I usually tear open the letter and I begin to smile. Someone thought of me today.

    The only person I write to today is my Grandma in Florida. I have to write in big letters though, she doesn't see so well anymore. Still--there is nothing like getting a letter from my Grandma--and I'm sure she feels much the same way!!

    Awesome L Post!!

    Cheers, Jenn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How wonderful you have that gift with your Grandma. And I agree, there is nothing like good stationary to write on. I love searching the stores for it and of course, the proper pen with a good flow to write with!

      Delete
  4. I used to write masses of letters - to pen-pals while I was at school, and then to other friends. It's sad in a way that email has replaced letter-writing, and that future generations won't have the joy of looking back at 'old letters'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Paula. It's definitely a dying art.

      Delete
  5. pen pals! I had those too! And somehwere they are in a shoe box. I was telling my boys about them and they're just dying to have one; putting a paper letter in snail mail is novel!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I write and mail letters to my grandchildren, even though they live just blocks from us and we see them most every day. I wrote to my daughter when she was away at college, too. Sadly, that's about all the letter writing I do. :O(

    I love that you have the letters your dad wrote to your mom. What a wonderful piece of your family's history and extraordinary peek at your parents from a new perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh how wonderful you and your grandchildren write. My mom would write letters in BACKWARDS cursive to my son. She could just sit down and do it. Absolutely blew my mind! He'd have to hold them up to a mirror to read them!

      Delete
  7. I used to have a couple of pen pals, too, and a cousin in New York with whom I corresponded regularly. When one of my closest friends moved to Milwaukee after getting married, we wrote back and forth. And my first serious love was a schoolteacher, and he would write me letters from school a few times a week. I looked forward so much to those. However, when Tim and I got engaged I finally threw all those letters out! I love that you have those binders with correspondence with your mom and that you still write to Abe. I still have a handwritten note that you sent me once, and I so loved getting it. It's a shame that letter writing is disappearing so quickly. I always wonder what the historians of the future will have to work with without letters. Wonderful post, Amy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank Elaine. My heart aches a little for the letters you tossed (only because I tossed a bunch from when I was in school and the first guy I dated and have always regretted it.) I have a few handwritten notes from you in my binders as well. (and yes - they are precious!)

      Delete
  8. this made me tear up........wow. I too just got a package in the mail this week from my Aunt; she died and in it pics of our past..some i never saw before. This is what writing does; it preserves history!

    I still feel a measure of sadness of losing that tie with her.

    when i read your written sentence above i said out loud WOW yup..can so relate to that

    awesome blog my friend..thank you

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you and I'm so glad you have that history Brenda. May the pictures bring you a measure of peace with her passing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Writing letters is very intimate to me. I had a letter writing very close friend who passed a few years ago and I cherish all of his letters. I have re-read them so many times and I have copies of all of my letters to him as well. They are not handwritten he typed and I computed, but they are still precious.
    I also have letters from my son when he was in the navy. They are priceless.
    Good job on this one. ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jo. It's so nice you have the letters from your friend. Handwritten or typed I believe we share in letters a difference intimacy than any other form of communication. (Not that I'm influenced in my thinking by being in LOVE with the written word at all!)

      Delete
  11. This was a very important blog on the value of letter writing. I love pens, paper and writing. These days I type more than I write, but you've inspired me to write to my son who is in college. He's going to get a hand written letter from me this coming week. Thanks! : )

    ReplyDelete
  12. Letters are a wonderful, near extinct art form that I still enjoy. I wonder how likely it might be that your pen pal/friend from Australia might find you someday. The boundaries from continent to continent have been bridged soundly with the use of the web. It would be interesting... to write about :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be such a treat to find her again. Every few years I try to search through the internet but come up dry. Maybe kismet will take over and she'll be a part of the A-Z blog challenge! She was an artist and we wrote a few poems together while she was here.

      Delete