That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.
I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).
When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.
That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.
My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. 😉 ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.
It was wonderful.
Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.
My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.
But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.
When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.
As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.
It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.
But it’s not the same and I know it.
It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.
It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.
I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.
I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.
So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.
When I was a kid my mother sat at her desk several mornings a week and penned letters to my grandmothers. She probably had several other friends that she also corresponded with on a regular basis. When she was bent over her pad of paper, we knew not to disturb her unless there were bones. blood or vomit involved. That was Mom’s time.
So it’s no wonder that I grew up writing. I kept diaries from third or fourth grade right up through high school. I also had pen pals. One in Japan and my best friend that I left in the old neighborhood in second grade. I loved writing letters.
When Mr. Nina headed off to college I wrote him every day and sent the letters a couple of times a week. But it wasn’t one sided. Mr. Nina wrote to me a couple of times a week as well. Long letters filled with love and college pranks only guys can pull, kept me part of his life. When I went off to college my mom added me to her letter writing list and I got a letter once a week. I treasured those letters. They came every Thursday or Friday and I would read them out loud to my roommate. I told Mom years later how much they meant to me and it took her completely off guard. I think she’d be even more surprised if she knew I saved every letter she sent me.
Yep, packed away in shoeboxes are the letters from Mr. Nina and my mother. I haven’t read them in years, but since we’re moving soon I have no doubt I’ll pull them out and read through some of them again. I have no idea what my kids will do with these letters, but I just can’t part with them.
And I bet you’re wondering what precipitated this blog. Well, with Mr. Nina being several states away we’ve begun writing again. Not letters so much, but cards and little notes. Skype has made the newsy-letters not as important. When a note arrived from him the other day my heart actually skipped a beat. Just seeing my name written in his unreadable chicken scratch made me sigh. It brought me back to those many years ago when I went through the mail with great anticiaption.
And that’s what makes me so sad. My children text their boy/girlfriends several times a day. They have facebook to keep them in touch with family back home while they’re at college. And it’s good … I guess. But they’ll never know the thrill of waiting for a lover’s letter in the mail. The thought that they were thinking of you even when you weren’t with them. The romance of reading words that perhaps they’re too nervous to say aloud. *sigh* It’s just so … Cyrano De Bergarac.
The closest my children have come to writing letters are the thank you notes I’ve insisted they write to relatives after birthdays and Christmas. Now that they’re young adults they’ve developed the habit and do it without prompting from me. Their grandparents are especially enjoying it. It just makes me sad that that’s the only taste of this wonderful tradition they may ever know.
I’ve heard letter writing is making a come back. I don’t know if that’s true. I tend to think my children’s generation with the advent of cellphones and texting will lose the art of letter writing and it will go the way of other extinct animals only to be seen in museums and history books. And that would be just so sad.
So what about you? Are you a letter writer? Do you have a stash of special letters that you’re unwilling to part with? Because you know me, I’m just wondering if I’m the only one in the world with a apecial shoebox in her closet.