Saturday, July 17, 2010

Connection, Reflection, Collection

Yesterday when I went to my mailbox there were exactly two items in it: both personal letters for me, responses to letters I had written.

One was from my husband's aunt C. The other was from J, a former coworker. Both remarked how receiving my letter caused them to reflect on other letters they'd received and sent, and how letters touch them in ways that e-mail and Facebook do not.

"My first letter recollection was from my grandma in Missouri, my mom's mom," wrote Aunt C. "She religiously wrote a weekly letter to us on paper exactly as you had used. Her news always included the weather and a garden report in the summer ... In college I would write home and frequently write my heartthrob, Uncle J. We have kept some of them."

And J wrote, "As I was spring cleaning over the last few weeks I found several notes I had received over time. It's an odd thing, I know, but I keep cards and letters I receive from friends and family. It's a little 'pack-rattish' but, as I rediscovered recently, it's so wonderful to go back and see how I touched other people's lives (through thank you notes and letters) and how other people have touched mine."

Actually J, I don't think it's odd at all--I too love going through the boxes of letters and cards I have kept from friends and family. "Pack-rattish" is how I would describe my one time obsession with keeping all the issues from my Martha Stewart Living subscription, as if somehow I would one day be inspired to tear through dozens of (mostly unread) issues and unleash a homemaking storm. Not so much--Martha got recycled. But cards and letters? I'd no sooner discard those than I would the warranty on the dishwasher or the DVD player manual.

"E-mail gives people the opportunity to communicate, but it's not without its drawbacks," C wrote. "It is too easy just to read one after another without taking time to reply, which is something I am trying to do--reply."

"I am a huge fan of handwritten letters (for many reasons) and have been since I was a child," wrote J. "It's probably one of the reasons I try to send postcards to as many people as possible when I travel ... it does make a more meaningful connection than Facebook which is at most times superficial and at the best a way to stay up to date--but it isn't very meaningful on a deeper level."

They're both right. Electronic communication and social media are in so many ways fantastic developments, connecting people in ways that Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell and the rest of our ancestors simply could not have imagined. These days handwritten letters are called "snail mail" for a reason--definitely not the way to go if speed is what you need. But if you're looking for connection, and reflection, and a way of building your own historical collection, it's in your hands.

SPEAKING OF SNAIL MAIL: I love these bloggers who have embraced the term and turned defamation into celebration. Check out Snail-Mail Aficionado, Snail Mail Madness and Viva Snail Mail!


Jackie Flaherty said...

Thanks for sharing the 3 new sites! I will check them out!

letters and journals

L, The Jar Keeper said...

They are great sites. Viva has a great post about writing a letter to your 20-year-old self--I think that is such a cool idea. I'm thinking about adding my own name to The Letter Jar. :)