Thursday, July 30, 2009

Keep In Touch

K. I. T
e n o
e u
p c
h

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who remembers receiving notes in school or letters from pals with that writing at the bottom of the page. My best friends, my cousins and I would exchange letters almost weekly, faithfully scrawling those most important letters at the bottom. We wanted them to know that we wanted to hear from them. We wanted them to know we were hip on the current letter writing lingo.

I'm not sure if kids in school write letters any more. They're too busy texting. At least our acronyms were just that, a funny little way of letting people know what we were trying to say. Texting, however, seems to have degraded the English language to a bunch of consonants desperately needing their vowels.

But I digress...

Letter writing is an ancient form of communication. Ever since man discovered they could carve symbols in stone or scratch ash into cave walls, they have been trying to communicate with each other through the written word. With the invention of paper (and the postal service), a while new avenue of keeping in touch was born.

Letters were the primary means of communication for centuries. No picking up the iPhone and calling a bishop in France. O no; the Pope had to issue a letter, signed and sealed, and taken across countries by a messenger. I admit, it wasn't a very timely manner with which to deliver important news. Especially during wars.

Thankfully, things calmed down a bit and people began sending letters of sentiment. "How are you?" "I hope your family is well." "Is your mother feeling better?" "Were the kittens born yet?" Day after day, year after year, people kept up with the goings on of friends and family through the written word. Pages upon pages of letters have been discovered and preserved either by family or in museums (imagine having your letters on display for touring school children to gawk at one day). It was a welcome sight, that envelope, painstakingly lettered with pen and ink. Every word was savored, a breath of fresh air from a loved one. A moment to stop what one was doing and relax into a world, perhaps, they'd left behind or had never before seen.

Now we email, text, phone. Post boxes seem to be reserved for bills and junk mail. But every now and then, yes, even today, I catch a glimpse of a hand addressed envelope. There's a stamp (you know, those sticky things with numbers and random artwork) on the top right corner. Who's it from? A friend? A relative? It's not my birthday or Christmas. I pick it up, out of the slush pile of credit card offers and smile. It doesn't matter if it came from down the street or out of state, a letter with my name on it has arrived.

One of my dearest friends and I have gotten into the habit of exchanging letters on a fairly regular basis. It sets my heart right to see that envelope sitting in the box. But I don't read it right away. O no. A letter requires the proper attention. I sit it on the coffee table until I can sit down and savor each and every letter. With a cup of tea brewing, a candle lit, and my feet tucked under me on the couch, I gently slip my finger underneath that sealed flap and pull out the pages as if they were made of onion skin.

I smile, I laugh, I may even cry. It all depends upon what is being said. It's like a movie, only far more personal and sacred. It's like a miniature book written for your eyes only. Someone took time from their busy, hectic, modern life to hearken back to simpler days in order to let me know what's going on in their day to day.

We are a busy people. I don't like it. In fact, I'd much rather get back to a time when we grew our own food and knew our neighbors by name and traded chicken eggs for fresh baked bread if the money was running a bit low. I do what I can, in my little garage based homestead. One of those contributions is to write letters, send cards, tuck a postcard in the mail on a random Tuesday to my dear sweet friend in South Georgia or my grandmother who's only forty five minutes away.

People say the art of letter writing is dead. I say "pish posh"! Have you been to a stationery store lately? Yes, they do exist, and they are chock full of gorgeous papers and envelopes and stickers and wax seals and.... Grab you a box of note cards. Go on. You know you eye them every time you run to the store for milk and bread. Heck, I've seen them in the dollar bin at Target. If that's the case, grab several. Go home and make a list of all those people you swore you'd keep in touch with and, so far, haven't. Jot them a line or three. Write them a five page dissertation on the goings on in corporate America. Send them your great grandmother's recipe for banana nut bread. Three simple words, a stamp and whoosh - you've just made someone's day!

It doesn't take much to let others know you care. Don't feel like you have to write an autobiography. Just let them know you're there, you're still breathing, and you want to make sure they are too.

You'll be glad you did. And who knows, you may just find a letter addressed to you a few days later. It could be the start of a beautiful thing!

Keep in touch!

~Jen

8 comments:

  1. Oh, I write letters -- I write hundreds every year, to my Italian pen pal (from middle school, believe it or not!), to my family in Poland, to the friends I left behind in Canada, to those who live across the States.

    It's the funnest thing, and when you're writing to so many you can never predict the arrival of a letter, and it just makes your day.

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  2. My son just received a letter from his uncle and it was so unusual to him as a teenager in this decade. I was very touched by the charm of a hand written letter and that this 86 year old man had enough interest in my son to do so.

    I do love beautiful papers, but hate to see my ugly handwriting on them.

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  3. Weronika: I would LOVE to have a pen pal! The last time I wrote to one was in junior high and it was for an assignment. Needless to say, it didn't stick. I'm going to have to do some checking into finding pen pals. I think that's amazing!

    DG: I think that's wonderful that your son received a REAL letter. What a wonderful uncle. Makes me want to go and write letters to all my nieces and nephews! Anytime I write on nice stationery, I have to force myself to write slow and neat. Otherwise, I'll ruin the paper for sure!

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  4. Count me among those who still write cards and letters. I have good friends who absolutely love getting a humorous card or letter in the midst of a busy work week. It means so much more than yet another email.

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  5. NCmountainwoman: I would much rather receive a letter or even a postcard rather than an email. I work for an IT company so I look at a computer all day long. When I get home, my eyes crave a tangible page and words that don't require harsh lighting to read! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. A few of us women from the kids schools, and along our street, pass notes on pretty or funny or naughty paper, tucked with a chocolate or something, handed out by our children, or quietly left at front doors.
    We sometimes splurge on cards, especially ones that bring well needed laughs , but it is the something that is in the space just above their handwriting where your fingers brush and reading heart breathes. It is truly of them.
    We leave notes to each other around the house sometimes, my kids leave them in each others bedrooms. Love it.

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  7. deb,

    Love the ideas of sending letters and postcards with little chocolates! How much fun! Sadly, I don't live near enough to any of my dearest friends to do that (the chocolates would all be squished if I tried to mail them!) I love how you make keeping in touch and making each other feel special a priority. As I said in my other comment: thanks for being a cheer giver! Love it!

    Jen

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  8. Writing letter is really enjoyable thing!
    Source: Letters

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