Letters. An Endangered Species.
You know what I miss? Letters. Seriously. I miss getting a nice letter in the mail from a friend just shooting the breeze. It’s weird to think in just my lifetime, letter writing has gone out of fashion. Instead we send texts like this gem I sent to my husband last night.
BTW Tooth Fairy ✅
Sure, I got the point across. I had, in fact, put money under our daughter’s pillow, and I know this exchange wouldn’t have required a letter in the olden days, but still. I miss letters.
When I think of letter writing, I find myself quoting this scene from Gilmore Girls:
I know I'm in good company if Lorelei Gilmore also misses letters. Last week, I read My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. It was a great book that shed some much needed light on (in my opinion) one of our best founding mothers. What I was struck by was how much of what we know about these heroes of the past comes from their letters. After Hamilton died, Eliza took on the task of gathering his correspondences so she could commission a biographer. She traveled around and copied letters his friends weren’t willing to part with. Upon someones’ death, his or her letters were a part of their will and some people (such as Eliza’s mother) stipulated that their letters be destroyed after their death so as to not make things public that they hoped to remain private.
I remember writing letters when I was young. I loved to write to my church friend (who lived a whopping 20 minutes away). We had this thing where we would include those perfume samples from magazines so all our letters were scented. I still can’t see one of those without thinking of Sherri.
When I was in sixth grade, my Social Studies teacher Mrs. Avers gave us the opportunity to get a foreign pen pal. I was paired with a girl from Germany who I wrote to for years. I still have the letter she wrote about when The Berlin Wall came down. And, although we didn’t click in person when I got a chance to visit her and her family, I know that without that pen pal, I may never have chosen to take German. And if I hadn’t taken German, I wouldn’t have done an exchange my junior year and I wouldn’t have met my German sister Katja who I absolutely adore. She’s seriously one of my favorite people. Letters. They made me who I am today.
When I was young, I always looked forward to time with my cousin. (I still do.) We both liked getting mail, so we agreed to start writing letters to one another though, again, she lived about a half an hour from me. In my mind, we exchanged a few letters here and there, but I recently found I was wrong about that.
I have this box of letters in the garage. My husband opened it once and found maybe one letter from a boy, so he assumed the entire box was love letters. I didn’t really want to open that can of worms (though I didn’t think they could all be love letters), so I kind of avoided it. This summer, while cleaning out the garage, I finally dug into the box and you know what I found? Love letters. But not from boys (maybe a couple were) but they were love letters from friends, my mom, my sister, aunts and uncles, and even some from my Grandma who passed away in 2013. I also found A LOT of letters from my cousin Amynda. It wasn’t something we did occasionally or for a little while as I suspected. Also, she hasn’t changed at all. She’s still the sweet (completely awesome) friend she was in those letters.
I found a post-it note that said, “Happy Birthday Teenager” in my Dad’s handwriting. He had written it before he left for work on my thirteenth birthday and put it on the counter. I found encouraging notes from my favorite English teacher who passed away only a few years later. My mom wrote me a letter every single week I was in college. By the way, we both had email, but she still mailed a letter. Every single week. That’s dedication. And something I’ll never forget. I also found little notes from my sister because she wrote one note for each day I was in Germany. We had so many inside jokes, I could’t recall what they were all about. I also found tons of notes from my friend Jaime who always knew how to encourage me. Thinking back on high school, I don’t know if I would have done half the stuff I did without her cheering me on. (Something she still does today even though we don’t live near one another.)
I’m all for making communication easier. I remember when people first started texting and I wasn’t convinced yet. This was back in the day when you had to hit the number keys multiple times to make a letter. My husband said, “I think you’d love texting. Even though it takes longer to get a message out, it’s still shorter than a phone call.” He knew me so well. I hate talking on the phone. I blame the fact that the front of my ear sticks out too far and it hurts after a while. Also, I get bored. He was right. Especially after phones come with letter keys, texting was much better than a call for quick messages. However, they moved us farther and farther away from letter writing.
When I was a junior in high school, I got invited to a lot of graduation parties and I knew I couldn’t afford to buy everyone a present. In the end, decided to give everyone stationery and stamps. I picked out different designs to suit each person who had invited me to their party. And guess what? In that box of letters, I found a bunch from those friends who had just left for college. Some were short and sweet. “Thanks for giving me this stationery. School is really fun. I miss you guys, etc.” But some of these friends really confided in me. They told me they were homesick and that school was really hard. I was a sounding board for some stuff they were clearly holding in to look brave for their classmates and maybe even their parents. I wasn’t particularly close with all of these friends, but the stationery and stamps gave them permission to be real.
It’s sad to me that in the past 20 some years, letters have pretty much gone extinct. (They’re at least endangered.) It’s weird that on Facebook, I can look at a post and simply choose one of the optional responses that appear. Not gonna lie, I’ve used them. But man do I miss letters. If you’re still with me, would you consider sending a letter this week? How cool would it be if the group of people who read this blog started a mini revival for letter writing? By the way, you can buy stamps at the grocery store too. You don’t have to go to the post office.
So, get out that ink and quill. Grab your parchment and let’s write some letters!