I have hope that snail main won’t perish; vinyl still sells, and I never thought that would be the case. Cassettes, 8-tracks, mini-discs, even CDs have gone by the wayside, but record albums continue to weave their spell. But this post isn’t about music. It’s about writing; writing letters.
Or cards; I love note cards, and I splurge when I choose them. I prefer cards from Papyrus, and not just for the little hummingbird stickers, although that does mean something to me now.
I’ve been mailing letters for over twenty years, in using that method as a form of correspondence. When my husband and I moved to Colorado for five years before heading to Britain, I sent photos of the kids to my grandmother here in California, and to my two aged aunts. At the time, I mostly used notepaper, as did my grandmother. One aunt always sent cards, most of the 5 X 7 variety, with drawings or pictures of cats. Aunt Dorothy loved cats; she also loved children, and appreciated photos of my little ones.
Right before we moved to Britain, my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. I went to see her with my eldest in tow, then seven years old. One of my lifelines was dying, also one of my main sources of information. Once in Yorkshire, I sent pictures weekly, also tales of the new (old) country. Later I learned those letters were more than just mail; my sister went to see Grandma often, and my letters provided something to be discussed, a distraction, usually arriving, as my sister remarked, just when she had nothing new to tell our grandmother.
Aunt Dorothy was still living (she was in her nineties then), and we continued our communications, her cursive still legible, but sloped downwards. After her death another aunt popped out of the woodwork, and more letters and cards were exchanged. I sent English cards to Aunt Ruby, sharing my scenery. That friendship existed until dementia took hold of her. She passed away after I returned to California, the last of her generation.
These women with whom I shared letters, photos, and cards wouldn’t know what to do with a tablet, email, or Facebook. They coveted information, but it arrived via paper and stamps, time in between when the words were laid across a card until the receiver could digest what had occurred. The sentiments were often trivial, in what the kids were up to, the weather. But the meaning was far deeper, it was to connect in the only manner available, phone calls too expensive, plus snapshots didn’t travel well via Ma Bell. All their letters are stored in shoe boxes in the garage. I keep every note that falls into my letterbox, precious reminders of the sender, and now of a time long gone.
My attempts to maintain that link are to my nearest and dearest; once or twice a week I send a card, or postcard, to my eldest, a habit formed when she spent her sophomore year of high school with family in the Midwest. Letters continued after we came back to America and she left for college. Now they are addressed to her, her husband, and Buttercup. We’ll probably never live in the same town, but even if we did, I would still send her cards, because I am always coming across the most gorgeous notes, and life is too short not to get a piece of mail every once in a while.
Last year I wrote to my youngest daughter’s best friend, who had just left home for college. Mostly it was postcards, easy to scribble a few lines, taking so little time, providing a smile. I write to my best friend in the UK, to my best friend here in California, to my best friend in Iowa, to another in Florida. I love sending my nieces and nephew postcards, which I just did a few days back. I’m always looking out for cards with trains, as my nephew adores locomotives.
I write to my sisters, my parents, occasionally my sisters-in-law. Not a week goes by that I don’t have something waiting outside the door, although in August, it won’t be on Saturdays. But I grew used to that living in Britain. It will just mean better planning when it comes to birthday and anniversary cards. But for my not all that casual correspondence, one less day to send mail isn’t a hardship.
The hardest part is running out of postcard stamps, or wondering if the postcard needs a regular stamp. My husband used to collect stamps, and he delights in exploring the USPS website. Lately writers have featured prominently, baseball players too, and Miles Davis and Edith Piaf.
Now, if I told you I received a fraction of what I wrote, I’d be lying. But that’s not the point. I don’t write novels for acclaim, I don’t write letters for replies. I write because I have no flippin’ choice in the matter, and cards are a lovely change in the routine. They are short, pretty, tangible. They make someone’s day, that I know. And really, isn’t that all life is about, making the day brighter for another soul? I can do it via lengthy manuscripts, or brief missives tucked into envelopes, sent far distances. I just finished reading Howards End by E. M. Forster, the theme of which is to connect. It’s a fantastic novel, of which I’ll probably post about next week, so much to say about that book. Mostly, to me, it means to remain accessible. Technology makes so many things easier, but the old ways have merit, a quaint touch that could be misconstrued by some as a dying art.
Yet, correspondence is art, maintaining open channels of communication, keeping relationships alive. What could be more beautiful than that?