Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Letter Writing, a Gift That is Sadly Fading

When I was young, I met a young man that lived in another town.  This was before texting or unlimited phone calls.  This young man would write me a love letter every week.  I lived to find that letter in my mailbox.  I would run into the house and read my letter and then read it again.  Sometimes I would even share its contents with my mother.  Then I would safely tuck it away in my letter box.  I held onto those letters for many years, even after we had long said our goodbyes to each other.

There is just something classy and warm about a handwritten letter.  First of all, you know that it took the person some time to write the letter and an amount of thought had to go into it.  So it makes you feel a little bit 'special'.  The letter can be kept in a pretty little box and retrieved whenever needed.  It is a
documentation of what life was like at that time era for you.  The letter can be passed down to later generations as a bit of family history.  The movie, "Bridges Over Madison County", tells a story about a lonely housewife who strikes up an affair with a passing photographer.  She keeps her secret from her family until at her death when they find letters in a box.  Her children were shocked but very intrigued by the contents.  I, along with a friend, spent an afternoon in Iowa a few summers ago chasing down the bridge and home that were in the movie.  I also have "The Madison County Cookbook".
So I find it very nostalgic to receive or send a written letter.

My most treasured letters are letters that my mother wrote to me.  I lost Momma in 2001 to lung cancer.  It is very comforting to hold the paper that she held in her hands, to see the words that she wrote, and imagine her voice  speaking the words to me.  I doubt that she realized what a GIFT she was giving to me at the time that she sent the letter.  I wish I had a 100 letters from her now safely tucked away.

Sadly, the art of letter writing is quickly fading away with the technology of cell phones, texting, email and online chat.  I love my computer as much as anyone, but I still treasure the few written letters and cards that I do receive.  I now have my own task to complete, which is a box of blue-leaf thank you notes, that I started writing in the middle of January.  I have several to fill out, and as I said it does take time and thought to write even a short note.  (Not to mention the times that I have not been able to get to the Post Office to buy stamps because of all the recent snow.)   But now that I am once again at home,  snowed-in, maybe I can finish the cards and send them off as soon as the snow melts!

As I was writing this post, I got my "Madison County Cookbook" from the bookshelf to share a recipe.  But as I opened the book to page 464, it occurred to me that I had found something even better to share.
On the pages of the book is a story about a woman, who as a child had sent her coat (with a letter tucked inside of the pocket)to help WWII European refugees.  Her coat was received by a Czechoslovakian girl.  The girl kept her letter and 30 years later her daughter sent a handwritten thank you to the lady who had donated the coat back in 1945.  Now, how ironic is it that I am sitting here at my computer, writing a blog about the gift of letter writing, and then just open up a book, and a cookbook nonetheless, to a random page and it be about a 'thank you' letter that connected people from a 30 year span of a young girl's kindness towards a complete stranger.  I guess it proves that letter writing really can be a gift from the heart.

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