I got a letter in the mail from my sister, Kristen, in New York today. Yep, a real letter. When was the last time you got one of those?
I asked nearly one year ago, if she would do me the kindness of writing to me on paper instead of email and she agreed. It is one of the best gifts she could have given. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to seeing that envelope in my letter box. It stands out like a diamond among bills, political fliers, mailings from alma maters asking for money, and constant AARP mailings, reminding me that I’m no spring chicken.
There is something so precious about a handwritten letter arriving by post. I watch for it like a child waits for a holiday morning. I envision my sister taking time from her busy life to sit down in a quiet place, gather her thoughts and reflections, and move pen across paper as she shares them with me. Being environmentally conscious, they arrive on the back of papers from her office recycling pile, which I also read because they are further clues into the state of her life.
I don’t rip her letter open and read it right away. I wait, make a cup of tea and then choose just the right moment when I can be still and alone, to fully savor our written visit. I like knowing that her hands have held the same paper only days before, imagining it on her dining room table or balanced on her lap. Sometimes she writes from the backyard, so birds and garden news are included, sometimes while waiting for her grandson at an art class and sometimes just before or after dinner.
People’s failure to write has always baffled me. Friends I love dearly will not write a real letter. They say it’s too hard to find an envelope, a stamp, and place it in the box. I’m grateful for email because I get to hear from those who would otherwise be gone from my life. Of course, email is wonderful in being so immediate and now, but I don’t always want immediate and now.
I remember how sad I felt when friends stopped sending me birthday cards and gave me ecards instead. I don’t require gifts, but the idea that someone made a card for me or went to the store with me in mind, matters. The idea that they spent a few minutes at the computer and then pushed the send button feels different, not so special.
I saw an old British film last week, where a woman went to her letter box and took out five or six envelopes from friends. I remember those days and it makes me sad to think of them as gone. Maybe that’s why I need to write so much. I don’t want to think of tangible correspondence going the way of the man who used to deliver ice for our freezer or the milkman whose bottles clanged their way to the doorstep. But I have a feeling that’s just what’s happening. For now, I comfort myself with my sister’s letters, and these blogs pieces, which are my letters to the world.