Monthly Archive: September 2015

You’ve Got Mail

MailboxAs I was wondering what this week’s post would be, I was watching the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. They start out as an anonymous online romance but soon Tom discovers Meg’s identity but decides to leave her in the dark. On a visit to her home they talk about online relationships and he calls “you’ve got mail” three powerful words, a sentiment she endorses.

That started me thinking about what, I am sad to say, appears to be the lost art of written communications. Whether a letter, a note or a well-timed card, I miss the art of the hand written word. Maybe that’s because so much of the mail I receive these day is addressed to “Dear Valued Customer,” a phrase that does nothing to make me feel special.

Before our annual summer trip to Alabama I made sure all my friends had my aunt’s address. I would mail a letter or two to Brooklyn and would be so excited when a response arrived, giving me the news from friends back home.

I also remember a school assignment when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. One by one we drew the name and address of a similar aged student who was to become our pen pal. I drew Ursula’s name and she lived in Cape Town, South Africa. (I still remember her last name but refrain from sharing it out of respect for her privacy.) What was to be a yearlong assignment actually turned into a relationship that lasted into high school, until the letters from abroad slowed to a trickle and then stopped altogether. But it was so fun to write on what was then special air mail stationery and tell Ursula about my life and my family and wait for a similar response. I tried to imagine her life and wondered if some day we might actually get to meet in person.

One day when going through a box of old photos my mother kept in the family desk I came upon a stack of letters written to her by my father before they were married. They were G-rated, something that can’t be said of a lot of messages written today, but what struck me as so odd and incredibly interesting was seeing my father as someone other than my Dad. And before anyone becomes upset with me for reading them, I did tell my mother about it. So many years have passed and somewhere along the way my mother decided not to keep them (she was not one to hang onto things) and for that I am sad as I would love to be able to re-read them today and try to imagine my parents much younger with so much of their lives ahead of them.

I think it is often easier to express our feelings and thoughts in writing than saying them out loud. For one thing, you have time to think about what you want to say and if you are not pleased with the end result, you can start over. It also helps that you are not looking directly into the face of the person with whom you are communicating so you are not deterred by body language or interrupted by their response.

All that said, I know I am as guilty as anyone for moving away from handwritten notes and letters. Texts filled with fragments, acronyms and emojis have become so prevalent I worry there are probably more people than we realize who have no idea stationery even exists.

Well, today is the day I vow to do a better job of returning to those days when hand written thank you notes were a given and we chose our words carefully and thoughtfully. But please be patient with me as I work through this – I am out of practice and need to start slowly.

And if you liked this post, please be sure to post a comment so you can practice the art as well!