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.

8 thoughts on “Letters

  1. Sweet! Your letters are held for that moment when there is quiet and time for reflection. I even cherish the misspelled words and crossed out items that reveal the wonderful imperfections of our lives. Keep writing. “In the beginning was the WORD!”

  2. Handwriting one letter to one person is so inefficient, and the most special thing – a communion on paper. I miss it too. I have a box of letters from my best friend from grade school and I cherish them, though the friend is long gone. My history is in there…each envelope a ruler mark of my inner self, growing. Thanks for this.

  3. I sometimes wonder how the mail carrier is doing these days given that so much of what they deliver is considered “junk mail”, and seen to be nothing more than a nuisance. Day after day, the recycling bins in our mailroom are just overflowing with unread and unwanted advertisements.
    Even though I don’t appreciate the ugly mailings encouraging me to buy unhealthy food and unneeded products, I hope the post office itself never becomes extinct. My post office has the funniest tellers, and mailing packages at Christmas and birthdays is somehow a sweet activity. It is definitely not the same thing mailing from FedEx and Ups.

  4. I really relate to your piece about letters, and especially birthday cards. They are much more special than an e-card. Much as I love email, and I love it a lot, I still miss letters. It was a special day when a letter from a good friend arrived. You express this very well.

  5. My Gaga hand wrote letters every single day. The gift was returned to her, she recieved hand written letters most everyday. She saved most of them and her children are still reading them, months after she left us. I have saved the ones she wrote me. So has my daughter.
    My daughter is attending in Spain. I can email, facebook and skype with her everyday, trust me, I love that. However, I have sent her a hand written letter almost everyday, since she left! To my surprise, she told me that it means so much to her to get a hand written letter from me, it makes her feel thought of and missed. Her host mother told her; “Your mother must love you very much to write to you so often”, what a wonderful thing for both of us to hear, it is so true! There is something revealing, something raw, something beautiful about putting your pen to paper and writing. It makes me feel closer to her. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  6. That is beautiful, Karen. I have a BIG box of letters in my basement from my mom, sisters and friends. They are precious.
    I’m in Los Angeles with my son enjoying sunshine. I am so OVER Oregon weather. Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s the juice that keeps me going.

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