When was the last time you received a letter?
Not a surprise letter from the IRS saying that you…weee!…owe them several thousand dollars or a letter from your local library telling of a way-overdue book that you could swear you returned. Remember that episode of Seinfeld with The Tropic of Cancer book that was 20 years overdue?
No, I’m talking about an honest-to-God, old-fashioned, written on nice stationary (or at least some colorful paper) letter. Who gets those anymore in the age of texting, email, Skyping and FaceTime? I love how we even refer to them now as “old-fashioned”. This is just something that was a completely standard form of communication a few short decades ago.
I was lucky enough to get one just a few weeks ago.
A bright pink envelope arrived in my mailbox. I love getting the mail. Honestly, I don’t know what I think is going to appear in that mailbox (a gift? Harrison Ford? a new car?), but I always love peeking in there. This envelope even had the magic words on it…Par Avion…Air Mail. I love those letters, with their international, beautiful stamps. They always seem to be extra-stamped with ink-stamps, too, making them appear all the more special. You can just picture the postal worker in some far-off city with their Par Avion stamper…ka-bam! ka-bam! ka-bam! Send this one overseas!
An old friend of mine who lives in Paris decided to write me an OF (old-fahioned) letter recently. We had connected earlier (briefly) via email and then I waited to hear from her once she returned from a quick trip to Amsterdam. No emails arrived and I started to wonder. But then the letter came! Fun! One of the first lines in this lovely letter on lovely stationary was “I figure if we are going to catch up, how much nicer is it to receive a letter rather than another email?”. Got that right. I just love her.
It was truly a surprise to find this in my mailbox. I can’t tell you the last time I pulled a GOOD letter out of there. It got me thinking that, beyond cards for holidays, people just don’t write letters anymore. It’s amazing how that has changed. Not all that long ago, we had to have patience when communicating. Wait for the mail to arrive. Wait for the person to get home to check their answering machine. Now we just need 4G instead of 3G. I distinctly remember waiting for the mailman when I was dating my husband back in college. Hmm. That almost didn’t sound right.
Also when I was in college (apparently a big era for writing. All hail the 80s), one of my grandmas wrote to me every single week. And in her letter there was always money, in some amalgamation, totaling exactly five dollars. How cute is that? It could be a crisp five dollar bill, a few singles and change, singles and stamps (to write back to her). She wrote to me of her daily goings-on, nothing earch-shattering but dear in it’s simplicity, she told me to study hard and that she loved me. All alongside those sweet five dollars. Thanks to her, I was able to do my laundry each week. I’ll never forget those regular letters and how I loved receiving them. One that I saved actually fell out of one of my cookbooks just the other day. Fun to have Grandma reappear like that.
These days, when you do have the luck to receive a letter, it just floors you. Or at least it does me. That person took the time! They bought stamps! They went to the post office to mail it! They had to buy stationary! It’s as good as a full-fledged present because time was put into it. That’s something that isn’t doled out willy-nilly these days and everyone seems to have a shortage of it.
One of my favorite parts of the Sex and the City movie (the first one…aka The Good One) was when Carrie was reading the book of love letters from notable men to their loves-wives, girlfriends, lovers. Ever mine, Ever Thine, Ever Ours. 100 points for you, Mr. Beethoven. Game over, you win. Who could resist THAT? Counter that by perusing Hallmark cards or listening to (some) stuff on the radio…now we can see how civilization is crumbling. Oh, it just makes you melt when you see how communication-especially the great stuff involving love-was once handled. Or did you ever see the mini-series with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney…John Adams? They were intellectual equals AND madly in love AND they wrote hundreds of letters back and forth to each other. Ah, the good old days. If there’s one thing I am it’s a sucker for romance. Put in the form of a letter and you had me at Hello.
Needless to say, I plan to write back to my friend in Paris this week. I just have to get some stationary, as I don’t even own any at the moment. How sad is that? I haven’t done this in so long that I’m actually strategizing how to carve out the time to do it. Again, how sad is that? She sat at a little cafe (ok, in Paris. So much better…she even said it was the one from the movie Before Sunrise) so maybe I will start there…find my favorite Le Pen and some gorgeous paper and go back in time a bit.
Should be good for the soul, I think….Thank you for taking me back in time, my friend!