Yesterday Gary commented on the fact that there is a letter sitting on my desk. Yes, a real paper letter! It’s from his cousin, one of the few people I still correspond with by “snail mail”. There are two reasons for our paper correspondence. First of all, we enjoy it. Second, she and her mother were both long-term employees of the postal service and we like to continue to support them. I know one letter isn’t much support, but I would hazard a guess that other than a few birthday cards most folks don’t even match our small contribution.
Letters, unlike emails, are tangible proof of our existence and offer insight into our thoughts and feelings. Emails are just a click away from oblivion and sometimes it is quite difficult to determine the sincerity of a message, perhaps because of brevity. Email does not convey the feeling and tone of a message the way ink on paper does. It is difficult to describe the difference, but those of us accustomed to letters know it exists. I’m not sure what future generations will do without printed copies of their words. We have long depended on the letters of everyone from pioneers to presidents to give us a detailed depiction of history. I suppose our history is being recorded for the future by our blogs and YouTube. But both lack the intimacy and honesty of private letters exchanged by family and friends.
I have a collection of letters from my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that I cherish. I’ve also saved a few letters from friends, family and even strangers. I have the letters that I wrote to my mother over a period of many years because she saved them. Even though I enjoy talking on the phone and communicating by email and FB, I know those interactions are as temporary as our time here on earth. Paper letters have a life of their own and there is something comforting about being able to read the words written by someone who is no longer part of my life.
Tonight I will write a reply to that letter sitting on my desk. Perhaps I will even write a new letter to someone else and surprise them. Why don’t you do the same?
(Note: I posted this photo because this is the house we were in when we lived in Iowa near Gary’s cousin.)