Like a python slowly wrapping its thick body around my neck poised to overtake me, my mother’s stare locked me into a hypnotic state. Knowing I was in big trouble, she snarled, “Have you written your thank-you notes yet?”
As a young girl, perfect penmanship and flowery descriptions of gratitude were right up there with impeccable table manners. If it wasn’t done in a timely fashion, and to her satisfaction, my life would be hell for months to come.
Guiltily, I hung my seven-year-old head in shame and said with a tremor, “No.”
Gripping her candy apple red nails around my wrist, she led me to my room. As she pulled out a box of stationery, she icily declared, “You’re not to leave this room until all of them are done. It’s either that or I send all your gifts back.” Wanting the presents, I wrote under duress.
For years, I followed her Miss Manners instruction until one day I discovered a lovely little thing known as email. Why let your fingers get all cramped up when typing was so much easier, not to mention cheaper?
But last year, one magical moment would change my way of thinking forever.
Cleaning out the attic, I opened a golden box tucked away and found a stack of letters written to me from a time long gone by before emails or cell phones. Most were written in chicken scratch (boys rarely had good penmanship), but the declarations of young love spoke loud and clear.
Pouring over them line-by-line, I laughed and cried. I giggled over the ones that professed undying devotion when I remembered that going steady typically lasted 24 hours. I teared up over ones that taught me about the woman I would become. And then there were the ones that left me broken-hearted.
Carefully placing the stained pages back into the velvet lining, I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that my three daughters wouldn’t have this same experience when they turned 68. Their generation is famous for the “read and delete” approach. Maybe a card found its way into their mailbox with a few lines scribbled here and there, but gone are the days of pouring one’s heart and soul onto the pages of thinly lined binder paper.
In generations past, writing to family and friends was the only way to communicate at great length. And in those letters feelings, thoughts and experiences gushed forth leaving behind a history of two souls and their journey through life together.
Sitting in the attic, I magically traveled back in time to the girl I once was, the love-struck 16-year-old mesmerized by the star quarterback; The college co-ed exploring relationships that hung on for more than a month (and not just 24 hours); and the broken-hearted woman sobbing over the five-page breakup of a union that was headed for marriage, promise ring and all.
Covering the lid, I now placed the box inside my closet for safe-keeping. And as I did, it dawned on me that the mailed letter was becoming a lost art; Something future generations might only read about on Google. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The next time the computer calls out and an email seems the most straightforward and cheapest way to thank someone, get out the stationary and put words to paper. Maybe, just maybe, it will be re-opened forty years from now in someone’s attic and bring back memories of a time long ago — for as we age, memories become or most precious commodity.
It’s not too late to revive this mode of communication. Just think of how lovely it is when we receive a card in the mail for no apparent reason, especially when every other piece of paper is junk or a bill. If you had the time, who would you write to?