Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lost Art

There was a time not that long ago when e-mail, Facebook and blogs simply didn't exist. No one had cell phones and long distance calls were expensive. So we wrote letters.

I'm only 30 years old, but I remember this time with great fondness. I was 10 years old when I first discovered my love of writing. My family had just moved up to Northern California from my childhood home in San Bernardino, CA. Shortly before the move my mother had planted the seed. She mentioned that I could stay in touch with my girlfriends through letters and helped me amass an entire collection of pretty stationary specifically for the purpose of composing letters to friends and family members. 

Each day I'd run to our old fashioned rural mailbox, two long braids trailing down my back, with the great hope of receiving a letter from a faraway friend. Most days I wouldn't find anything addressed to me, but once a week or so I'd find a pretty pink or purple envelope tucked in amongst my parents' bills and junk mail. 

Perhaps it was a simple girlhood thrill of receiving something addressed to me in the mail. Maybe it had something to do with my secret girlhood dream of having a pen pal who, over a lifetime of letters, would become my best and truest friend. I suppose it doesn't matter why I loved it so much. Some things just are.

Twenty years have passed and I still love receiving notes addressed to me in the mail. I've managed to save virtually every letter I've received from friends and family over the years, and they're all tucked neatly away in a box under my bed. Maybe someday I'll pull them out and reread them. The short ones from my girlhood friends. The long ones from my parents when I was away at college. The ones my grandfather and I wrote to each other the summer before he died a few years ago (he saved each of my letters and I now have them stowed safely in my box).

These days, I've joined the masses and switched primarily to e-mail, but sometimes I wonder if something has been lost. You transfer a part of yourself onto the page when you handwrite a letter. The long or short loops in your handwriting are as much a part of the story as the words you have written. The time you take selecting the right paper, writing out your thoughts and tucking everything into an envelope is a true mark of love and friendship.

4 comments:

  1. I still write letters and postcards! And I am only 22, I think there is still a crowd that loves the feel of real paper, and physical correspondences, I remember one whole summer when a good friend and I wrote up to three times a week. Those trips to the mailbox, and her letter kept me going, even with two dead end full time jobs and housing trouble, I at least had those letters, which were so much more comforting than any email I could have received at the time.

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  2. A kindred spirit! Thank you for sharing your story. It's good to know there are others who feel as I do. :)

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  3. This post really spoke to me. We're the same age, and I too have boxes of written correspondence tucked away. Sadly these letters have mostly waned, and it's becoming more of a collection of the past. I still sometimes send out letters or cards to friends, but they're mostly followed up by emails, which is nice but not the same. I had several pen pals when I was in junior high. We took a lot of time and care to make our letters beautiful (including creating our own envelopes from magazine clippings). Sigh. It does make me sad when I open my mailbox to a slew of bills and junk mail with no hope for a personal note! Anyway, I'm writing a novel here, but I just wanted to say I'm glad I'm not the only one who longs for snail mail from friends ...

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  4. I used to make envelopes from magazines, too! Thanks for sharing your story Little Gray Pixel. I love meeting people who share my love for the old ways. :)

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