Just this past week I received a truly wonderful surprise in the mail. No, it wasn’t the Reader’s Digest Publisher’s Sweepstakes. But, right there in the stack of notices from the AARP, a reminder for medical appointments and the usual bills and sundry invoices, was a letter from an old friend. It wasn’t even a computer-generated letter, it was hand-written in her own familiar, looping cursive. It came in a plain white envelope, but the stamp was a beautiful rendition of the landing of a man on the moon. It was a simple thing, but it really made my day — maybe even my week.
So I decided to share this spark of an old school but true connection with my gentle readers, and to prompt them to do the same. When was the last time you wrote a letter? When was the last time you received a letter? It used to be a very reliable and forthright connection to your family and friends.
At some point, my cousins and I began writing letters back and forth and nothing could please me more than to see one of their letters in my mailbox. They lived on a farm in the Driftless area and I lived on the busy streets of Madison, so we didn’t see each other as often as we would have liked. Two cousins who were sisters and I wrote so regularly that we made it a club. We called it the “LPK Club,” which stood for Linda, Peggy, and Kathy. I’d almost forgotten the LPK Club until at a recent family gathering, their brother reminded me and I got an enormous lump in my throat. The LPK Club was near and dear to me and yet it had faded with time. I was glad to be reminded.
The LPK Club exchanged ten pagers and we’d send them back and forth with great interest. We’d make plans for the next time we were going to get together. Their family farm had ridges and valleys and caves and we were always writing strategic plans for going into the caves. We’d write long lists of things we’d need like flashlights and sweaters, etc. Those small caves were where I developed a nasty case of claustrophobia which prevails in my mind to this day. I bucked up when we actually went into the cave or they’d call me citified, yet I was scared out of my mind. You ought to see me in an MRI tube! Get me out! I digress. The letters shared jokes and information about boys we liked or how we were wearing our hair. Far from the instant messaging world today. But, there’s still nothing quite like finding a letter in your mailbox — your real mailbox.
How many times have you sent an email that was never received? How many times have friends said to you “Well, I sent you an email.” But it got lost out there in the “clouds” and you missed an important meeting, or even more importantly, “a party!” because of these waylaid emails, texts or tweets.
This column is to remind us all that sitting down to handwrite a letter to a friend or family member is almost a sacred act. While emails are nice and quick, there is a great deal of surveillance going on. Once you mention something like a plane ticket online, the sneaky computer apps will ferret out that information and send you a number of messages from hotels or travel agents. I know it is silly, but I am a private person and I don’t like the feeling that someone is peering into my communications.
Every time I see anything handwritten in such a personal and singular way, I think that the connection is more personal and far warmer than an email message. The way a person writes with a pen is for sure a large imprint on their own identity.
I have been lax about writing to friends and I have made a commitment to do better. To make a list and then start writing!
I think we all struggle to remain unique, and handwritten letters are certainly a distinguishing, refined way to mark who we are. You don’t need fancy stationery or anything, a spiral notebook, cheap business envelopes and a stamp or two — and it’s off to warm the heart of someone you have affection for. You will make someone happy for about 50 cents and how often can you do that?