Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Friends

Recently, I took part in an exercise which asked, “What will you never be too old for; what things will you always enjoy?” Others in the group listed good food, laughter, and time spent with friends, family and pets. My own list added holidays, the changing of the seasons and receiving mail.

My mailbox usually contains bills, “junk mail” and other unsolicited items, but the possibility of a new magazine, a card, or a handwritten letter, takes me back to my childhood, when it was a privilege (requiring permission) to bring in the mail. The anticipation of something addressed to me was a daily version of Christmas and I developed a habit of sending off for free brochures and pamphlets, just for the pleasure of receiving them in the mail. I also enjoyed correspondence with pen pals from Australia and Japan and looked forward to the envelopes marked “par avion” and the tissue-thin paper of the letters they held.

The value I place on these items can be determined by their place in my collection of keepsakes. There is the card from one of my best friends, circa 1963, sent from Girls State and one from my boyfriend, sent from Boys State. There are encouraging letters from my parents, written after I left for college and letters from my son written when he was in the Navy.

My feelings of anticipation haven’t changed and I still look forward to the mail. The Internet offers online magazines, e-cards and e-mail, but nothing can replace a magazine that I can hold and read in my easy chair, a greeting card that might actually include a hand-written message, or a long letter written from a friend or relative.

A favorite book is The Gift of a Letter: Giving the Gift of Ourselves by Alexandra Stoddard in which she writes about the importance of letter writing. Written in 1990, the book credits the use of the telephone as one reason for the demise of correspondence. The addition of e-mail and social networking sites such as Facebook to our communication choices makes the handwritten letter even more rare and precious.

Somehow, I can’t imagine taking as much pleasure in saving printed copies of e-mail or Facebook postings, nor would I expect my grandchildren to understand their significance.

My goal, then, is to write the occasional letter (while continuing enjoying e-mail) to my friends and family. Whether or not my letters are seen as “gifts” will be for the receiver to determine. In any case, he or she may write a letter in return and I’ll enjoy receiving it by mail – one of those pleasures I’ll never outgrow.

Annie Joy

p.s.  You may enjoy the following books about letter writing:

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