Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is there a letter, a letter for me?

I was listening to NPR yesterday while trying to avoid traffic collisions in the mad rush to finish Christmas shopping (why do we do this to ourselves?).  Anyway, I love NPR.  At least 70% of the time, the programming is riveting and fascinating to me.  Diane Reym interviewed Thomas Mallon, author of a new book entitled Yours Ever, in which Mr. Mallon discusses letters written by world leaders, famous writers, and ordinary people.  The art of handwritten letters is dying fast, much to my (and Mr. Mallon's) dismay.  I was enthralled by the topic and the interview.  This was definitely a broadcast in the riveting class ... I was transfixed.

Mr. Mallon addressed some very famous correspondence - John and Abigail Adams (a love affair for the ages), King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson (oh, my - he was besotted, wasn't he?), Woodrow Wilson and Edith Galt (another besotted male).  Fascinating.

I couldn't help but think about the letters that have played an important role in my life and how sad it is that my grandchildren may not know the thrill of receiving a letter in the mail, handwritten, addressed just to them, very personal and full of news, love, warm wishes, and sometimes sadness.  In this age of instant worldwide communication, will we lose forever the joy of opening the mailbox and retrieving an envelope addressed to us in a recognizable and well-loved hand and anticipating the words within?  Oh, I hope not.

Here are a few of the more memorable letters in my quite ordinary life:
  • A dear-Jane letter from a boyfriend who left for college before me and fell out of love with the girl back home.
  • The long letter from my first serious boyfriend telling me that his mom didn't think my letters to him sounded like a "woman in love."  What was she doing reading my letters?
  • All of the letters that I wrote to my parents while I was in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger, West Africa.  My mother saved every single one of them and carefully preserved them in a notebook for my return.  Instant diary!
  • All of the letters that our daughter, Sara, wrote to us during her college years which I saved, carefully preserved in a notebook, and presented to her on her graduation day.
  • Letters from my future husband while he was serving in Vietnam.  Newsy, friendly, revealing, then loving, longing and full of hope. 
  • My mother-in-law's letter to us as young parents criticizing our parenting skills and including a laundry list of action items!  I still can't throw it away - it is a reminder to me of what not to do as a mother-in-law and grandmother!
Today, we e-mail, blog, send text messages and twitters.  Just doesn't feel the same, does it?  I think I'll spend part of the weekend - which is supposed to be cold and rainy - writing a real letter to my oldest granddaughter!

I'd love to hear about letters that you remember receiving!

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