I am, and always have been, enamored of letter writing. Tucked away in a box somewhere is one of the first letters I wrote as a child. It says something to the effect of “Dear Daddy, I love you. Here is a nickel. Love, Lucky chik.”
The summer I turned seven my family set off in our station wagon for a vacation that would take us across the country. Apparently, every time I got angry with my parents (so my mother always told it), I’d scramble over the seats to the very back. Soon my folks would hear the scratch-scratch of my pencil as it moved across paper. Then would come the rrriiippp as the page was torn from the notepad. I would then (again, as my mother told it) fold my missive in half and pass it, via my siblings, to the front of the car.
I don’t have any copies of those angry notes, but I do have epistles I received during my teens and young adulthood. These letters, mostly from family, connect me to my past as surely as any diary entry; they also provide me a perspective of that time that is, if not older and wiser, at least different.
Today, the art of the personal letter seems to be lost. Actually, the art of the greeting card seems to be lost. Birthday wishes come via Facebook and text message (and yes, I am guilty of this as well). Unless you print out these messages, you can’t scrapbook them or place them in a memory box. And, while Facebook will “keep” your memories, text messages are ephemeral.
I definitely mourn the loss of the personal letter or note. I long for the tactile nature of the written word – ink on paper growing yellow and fragile with age. I remember fondly the connectedness delivered via the United States Postal Service and not Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
This spring, my college-age cousin is spending a semester studying in Spain. Now, while the previous sentence may seem like a non sequitur, it really isn’t. You see, she’s my cousin’s kid. I think that makes her my second cousin, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that if she were limited to writing letters during this time abroad, I would not be receiving one. Not that we are on the outs, but we are extended family, and I am fully aware of where I stand after her parents, sibling, same generation cousins, friends, grandparents, etc. If I were dependent on old-school letter writing, I would not know of her studies in Seville, her struggles with understanding her host mother, her soul-stirring visit to Dachau.
The reason I do know is because during her time abroad, my cousin is keeping a blog. Through the blog, I am able to keep up with this bright, intelligent, inquisitive, and entertaining young lady. Her blog is a modern take on the traditional friendly letter, one I am thoroughly enjoying.
And so, while I don’t foresee a time when my love for a hand-written letter will be supplanted by this new-fangled form of e-communication, in this instance, I find myself embracing the connectedness it provides.