If there’s one thing I have a deep passion for, its letters. There was just always something special about running to the mailbox on your birthday or a holiday and seeing a card with your name on it, typically written in beautiful cursive that only someone our grandparent’s age could accomplish.
Not to age me at all, but I feel like with social media and the desperate rush that now permeates society, letter writing has been lost with the times. My mother now sends all of her friends virtual cards from American Greetings that typically have some type of animal singing. On my birthday I get an influx of text messages of “Happy Birthday, girl!” and not that I’m not appreciative of that, but there’s just something about a card that feels exponentially more special.
There’s a lot of other people that seem to agree with me. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, Sir David Greenaway, started “The Letters Page” in 2013 to collect and print letters from as many people, from as many continents as possible. One of the professors who helped start the project, Jon McGregor, wanted students to think of literature differently and try to push students to create writing when they weren’t under the pressure of it being “actual writing.” He believed that letter writing in any form took away this pressure.
Letters too are just so special to keep, where it feels as though digital content just gets lost so easily over time. Texts are quickly deleted when space is needed and phone calls are forgotten with time. But, I have a bin under my bed with all the letters I ever received. From scribbles from my little cousins that are now ready to graduate high school to letters from people I’m no longer friends with or relatives that have since passed.
Letters act as a frozen snapshot of time. There are whole websites dedicated to special letters written between celebrities, historical figures or just ones that provide a special illumination of a time period. “Letters of Note” is one of my favorites, as it provides photos of the letters and then a translated “easy to read” version of its contents.
Hellen Keller’s letter to the New York Symphony Orchestra about how she could feel the vibrations of the music, “I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations” Keller writes. Sonya Houston wrote to her husband a decade after he died in 9/11 telling him how missed he is and how the family has been. “The children keep me young, and they remind me every day of you. You live on through them,” Houston said, continuing, “Hasani’s disposition and mannerisms are all you. Hannah looks like you but is very feminine and girly. They both are kind and compassionate children. I can’t wait to see who they become as they grow up. I know you are looking down on them and smiling. You would be so proud.”
I think there’s something incredibly personal and vulnerable about writing someone you love a letter. Writing about how and why they matter to you, what you love about them and how amazing they are. I don’t think we spend enough time telling the people we love why we love them, and the perfect format to do so is a personal letter.
I’ve tried to bring it back slightly. I write outrageously long cards to my friends for their birthdays and Christmas. I have a pen pal and just try to bring the tradition back as much as I can. I ask you to do the same. Especially as we get closer to the holiday season, I urge you to go to Trader Joe’s or somewhere that sells cute cards, pick one out, write all you can and stick it in the mail.
You’ll feel better for it, you’ll make your friends feel good about themselves and continue a tradition that disappears more and more every day.