Thursday, June 11, 2009

Snail Mail

It seems derogatory somehow to refer to a handwritten letter by the phrase "snail mail". I know why it's called that. It just makes it sound so...slimy. And unwanted.

I love handwritten letters. I love to write them. I love to receive them. My heart does a little flip every time I see an envelope in the mail that has my name and address written on the front. Written, not typed, spat out from some computerized machine. Bill collectors don't hand write addresses. The government doesn't either. A handwritten envelope means one thing: someone I know has taken the time to contact me.

Letters are meant to be savored, read at one's leisure. Just the other day, I received a letter from a very dear friend of mine. I opened it, glanced at it, but did not read it. It was a full twenty four hours before I finally sat down to see what she had to say. Had I read it upon opening, I would have missed the subtleties of the phrasing, the meaning behind the words upon the page. I brewed a cup of tea, curled up on my sofa, and read the pages slowly, word by word, taking in everything she had to say. She took the time to write me; I owe her and her words respect.

Letter writing used to be the norm, the way people communicated their thoughts, dreams, intentions. It was once a necessity. Now it has become a luxury. Or, at worst, an archaic pastime better left to Dickens' novels and doting grandparents. Have we really become so busy that we can not pause and write a brief note? It doesn't have to be a dissertation on the basics of quantum mechanics. Just a postcard that says, "Hey, I was just thinking about you."

"But email is so much quicker. They'll get it instantly and know I'm thinking about them right then."

Yes. If you write it, they'll get it in a day or three. They'll go out to their post box, pull out the mass of junk mail, bills, and fliers, shuffle through them, grumbling and complaining up the drive until...they pause. It's a post card. Huh...must be a promotion from some store. They turn it over. Wait- they know that name. They recognize the handwriting (hopefully email hasn't deprived of the recognition of a loved one's handwriting!). A letter? For me? Someone took the time to actually write a few words, fork over forty-seven cents and send ME a letter?!? The bills and junk mail get left on the table. They take your letter (post card, greeting card, whatever) and sit in a well-worn chair, next to a window and read what you have to say. It's not much, just the general, "hey how are you?", "thinking of you", "how did your doctor's appointment come out?" They smile, maybe get a little teary-eyed. They smooth out the page, stand, and put your letter in the chair. Now they are ready for the rest of their day. You've given them more than a greeting, a thought, a message. You gave them pause, a respite from the helter-skelter of modern life.

We write to those we love, those we cherish, those we wish to get to know better. We give them words, our words, written painstakingly across crisp paper, folded just so, put into an envelope and sealed up tight against prying eyes.We give them pause from their routine, a deviation that gives them new perspective and appreciation of the little things. We give them a smile, a tear, a laugh. All unexpected, all greatly needed.

What greater gift can there be?

1 comment:

  1. I think I need to put my atrocious hand-writing to work and write a letter to someone.... Thanks, love!


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