“Mom, this came in the mail. A real card, in an envelope, in the mailbox!”
No one in our family or circle of friends does that anymore. Occasionally we buy a an honest to goodness, hold in your hand, made of recycled paper card, but more often than not, we send an online card, post happy birthday wishes on facebook, send a text message, or if they are special enough, we will call and talk to them. The card was from my daughter’s aunt, who lives in our town. However, she chose to mail it. She knew my daughter would not receive the card in the mail from her Grandmother that year. She passed away only months before my daughter’s birthday.
I remember watching the mailbox every year for birthday or other special holiday cards. I loved seeing the cards, but more importantly, the accompanying note or letter from the person sending the card. Over the years, I have saved letters or special cards from family and friends. I pull them out from time to time, remembering the people and events of my life. I lost an entire box cards and letters when I moved from Nevada, but I managed to save one small box. I have added to the collection over the past 16 years, but I rarely receive cards or letters anymore.
I have been helping my friend Jan with searching for stories about her ancestors. We have been to historical archives, libraries, and old houses in our search. In online programs for recording family trees and genealogy as well as in archives, letters have been an amazing source of family history. I love reading about the people and their lives. Letters have been part of our history since there was pen and paper. We would be missing a great deal of our New Testament in the Bible were it not for letters. Novels and poetry books are about or taken from letters. We had songs growing up about letters. “Take a Letter Maria”, “Please Mr. Postman”, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (a Letter From Camp)”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, and more. Of course, we can’t forget the yearly letter to Santa.
I pulled out some of my letters this morning and as I read the words of encouragement and support from my friend who passed away five years ago, I felt her presence and smiled. I read about her fear when the Beltway Sniper shootings were happening in the Baltimore/DC in 2002. I laughed as I read the things she shared about her family and friends. I still have copies of the letters from my mother when she left my father, my brother, and me. The words helped me understand her and the decisions she made at that time in her life. Another letter she sent much later explains more about her life.
I love being able to keep up with friends and family, who are spread across the country, on social media. Of course, we can always call and talk but it seems that we are often doing other things while we talk. Writing letters requires time and attention. When I sit down to write a letter, I am focused on that person for the time I am writing. When I read a letter I am connected to someone in a different way than any other. I miss cards and letters.
No, I am not a postal employee trying to encourage you to buy more stamps. I am challenging myself and all of you to write a letter or card to someone special. In fact, why not pick several people and write one card or letter each week for the next few weeks. I have a feeling that once we start, we won’t want to stop. Once you do, write a blog post about it. Let’s save an empty mailbox today.