What Once Was

As usual, today I got a load of mail.  Mail has become a dinosaur of irritation.  Bills and adverts if you are lucky.  Or, if not, that dratted speeding ticket or the letter stating your son is in danger of failing.  I never get good stuff.

I used to love the mail as a kid.  I never had to worry about negative stuff because whatever came in was a GIFT.  A card from Nana, a letter from a friend or pen pal.  The thought occurred to me that my kids would never love the mail as I did.  Then the thought occurred to me that they would never know the anticipation of a letter.

A REAL Letter

With paper and beautifully written cursive in pen.  Well, ok, messy handwriting.  But still, cursive.  Something else they don’t know about.  The joy of writing in curlicues.  Soon it will take on the interest of hieroglyphics.  Signatures are taking on a new terminology.  I don’t even know if they are learning “their” letters.  And if it is just “their” letters, what will the girls do if/when they change their name after marriage/ divorce/ divorce/ divorce?  Heck, for some women they just need the full class.

Typing a letter used to be considered “rude and impersonal”.  Everyone wanted a written letter.  Most kids now would look at  a handwritten letter and say, 1) “How do it read it?” and 2) “How do I reply?”

Ok, I’m really dating myself here.

Couples today get to Skype and text and email.  They don’t know how to wait, how to feel the surge of anticipation every time the mail is delivered.  The longing when THE LETTER is missing.  The heart-catching glance when THE LETTER is first spotted.  I have poignant bittersweet memories of letters from my college boyfriend during our summers and holidays spent away from each other.  The whole experience of getting a letter made me love him all the more.  In letter writing days, “absence really DID make the heart grow fonder”.  Perhaps we wouldn’t  have broken up if we had better ways to stay connected during the long months we stayed apart, and the last year when he was in Cambridge.  Our relationship broke over the strain of months on end of not seeing each other.  Now young couples don’t learn about missing the other person unless they go live in the wilderness, or have all their electronics taken from them.

I have a pile of letters from college.  My time capsule.  I made Scott give me all my letters when we broke up.  I read them a few years ago.  Letters from my mom and friends from high school.  Letters from my college friends and boyfriends. Letters had a different role back then.  You wanted to tell them your story.  It wasn’t phrased chitchat.  Reading them allowed memories long forgotten to re-surface.  Despite some of their silliness, they are a treasury of the best time of my life.


6 comments on “What Once Was

  1. God, I used to LOVE mail! I miss it. Checking the mailbox built character. Sometimes I feel sorry for the kids of today…though I do enjoy the technology. 😉

    • Easy come, easy go. But does jotting off an email or reading one really touch you like reading a direct link to another person’s mind? For that is what handwriting is to me. The personality behind the word is there for all to see. An intimate connection.

  2. I did learn cursive writing in school but it never was more than borderline legible. If I was writing something I wanted someone to read, I printed. My mother had neat, clear handwriting. So does my wife, and my daughter. I don’t, it’s just not a guy thing right?

    When we lived in Montreal we got to know a man around my age who had spent years working as a cook in northern mining camps. To pass the time, he wrote out the entire Bible, at least twice – once in French, once in English. His handwriting was very easy to read – well formed, uniform, beautiful. I felt jealous, and a little guilty for not trying harder when I was young.

    • My husband has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen, in print or cursive. Of course he is an artist, but I do believe that handwriting does say a lot about a person. A direct line to the brain, if you will.

  3. I so, SO relate to this post. I have had several long term relationships–one that is life-long, in fact–that hinged on long, painstakingly thought out letters….and illustrations, illuminated letters, that sort of artistic expression that was just for US. And oh, the anticipation, and the catching of breath when the familiar handwriting, and the handmade envelope, appeared in the mailbox! I feel awfully sad for our children, to miss the experience of the dying (dead?) art of belles lettres, and the relationships that accompanied them and were molded by them. RIP, letters….

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