A fact on my life resume is that I am 70 years old, and have been sending hand written letters, handmade cards, and notes of “thinking of you” or “dropping by to say hi” to family, friends, relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances since grammar school, when my mother first taught me to write “Thank You Letters”.  I remember sitting at the bar in our kitchen, earnestly composing words of gratitude to my grandmothers for their kind and patient hands, knitting me wool mittens, scarves, headbands, and cardigan sweaters with fluffy white angora kittens stitched on the front. Since then, I continue to be devoted to letter writing and, ”Fill my paper with the breathings of my heart” as William Wordsworth once said.

Each piece of pen on paper that I write is time consuming. I labor over the right words and sentences, and search through my files of literary quotes to help convey my thoughts and sentiments. I feel like the spider, Charlotte, in E. B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web.” She searches for, and ponders about using the right words in her web to help save Wilbur’s life. It fulfills me to write to someone every day, and I romantically imagine that that person will receive my card or letter as a surprise gift, wrapped in a stamped envelope, left by a fairy!

“Letters mingle souls,” said John Donne, an 18th century poet and essayist. I have kept the postal service busy throughout the years, since before the avalanche of E-mails, dings and dongs, and swooshes of texting in our twitter age. Snail mail pleasures me, even though I receive far less correspondence than I send.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter walked down their long driveway to fetch their mail. “It’s nothing but junk and bills,” she lamented. I hope that finding a “real letter,” an intimate form of communication from me in their mailbox, brings them delight.

I bought my grandchildren a cardboard mailbox decorated with penguins that sits on their buffet. If its flag is flipped up, it tells them, “You’ve got mail!” When visiting, I write short notes and messages to them after they’ve gone to bed. How joyful it is to see their lit up faces in the morning, as they run on little reindeer legs to open that box!

Recently, I have been helping my 93-year-old mother write letters in her nursing home. She chooses someone to be in touch with, and I write verbatim what she says, and mail it to that person. Her thoughts aren’t as clear as when she kept a diary throughout her marriage, but her murmurings are deep. “Now is my turn to be old, and I have to do the best I can,” I wrote for her in a letter to her grandson.

I will pass on selected letters I’ve sent and received to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, so that they will see examples of the lost art of letter writing.

 


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