Letters and written are my oldest form of communication that I can remember, outside of talking-. I have reflected on how my favorite way of connecting continues to be relevant today, postal mail.
My first memory of writing something that would be sent via the US mail was thank you cards. My mother was a stickler for them. We were not allowed to enjoy any gift until we wrote a thank you. It made for prompt writing of those notes. My grandparents could all expect written thank you cards for Christmas and birthday gifts. I remember it had to be at least three sentences. That meant you could not say thank you for the gift and call it quits. You had to tell them something about how you planned to use the gift, school or ask them a question. Grammatically those must have been some very strangely composed paragraphs.
When I was in primary school I had pen pals. Some of my pen pals were people I had met at Girl Scout camp. Others were strangers I picked out of the back of children’s magazines that had “pen pals wanted” (can you believe that in today’s world that was acceptable?) I may have had one pen pal as a school project. It was there I learned to love the written word. I loved to communicate with serious thought about composition and actually came to understand sentence structure and how to compose conversational prose.
I spent summers with my grandparents at the cabin. It was there I was introduced to the postcard. The cabin was a vacation destination and there were tons of picture postcards to pick from. I would pick out cards for my parents and my two sets of grandparents at home. It was on those cards every summer where I learned to tell as much about life as possible in that little spot for writing. I suspect that the recipients looked at my disjointed little notes several times before they made sense.
When I graduated from high school and moved away from home to Minneapolis, I continued to use mail as my main mode of communication. Money was tight and phone calls were expensive. I wrote letters to my grandparents on a regular basis telling them about my new life and adventures. My grandparents had been a significant influences on my life and I continued to include them as I found myself as an adult. Letters were a way that worked for both of us
Like may others I moved more to the phone as I grew older, but I never gave up the love of letter writing. The art of letter writing came back to me in full force when RangerSir started his transition into a new career. To get a job with a federal agency at the time required years of seasonal work. I continued to work my corporate job and he started to spend months away from home working at distances half way across the country. I ferreted out things to make my writing special. I found books of postcards, fancy stationary and cards to send to him. His assignments were in guard stations that had power, but no telephone. His home was a sort of bunkhouse that made use of repurposed guard stations and old trailers. To say they were minimalist is being kind. They were out in the woods. He came into town once a week to pick up mail, do laundry and shop for the week. Mail call was a big deal. We both have those letters in our stash of stuff we have moved from place to place. These letters allow us to look back and remember details of our lives long forgotten
Things sent via mail have the chance to last long past a life. One of the things I that was given to me when my Granny had passed away and her house was being cleaned out was a book of post cards. My great grandad, George Clyde, had worked for the railroad and the stories about him were few and generally not flattering. In this book there were postcards he sent home to his children. They were an amazing slice of life of man encouraging his children and providing guidance. They were sent from towns all along the Santa Fe railroad line where his job took him. I love to see his hand and read what he wrote. In spite of his flaws, he seemed to really love his kids. I never knew him, but when I read those I imagine his voice. This is a piece of history that was not lost. It was a piece of history I shared when I gave some of the postcards George Clyde sent to his daughter, to her daughter, his granddaughter. I hope that some of the letters that folks who have to leave their children as part of their job in today’s world will last and give view into people years later in ways that others can’t.
This pandemic has brought back an excuse for me to connect to folks via mail. Sending a letter via mail is a connection that can last long after the moment they open the envelope. It is a smile you can hold on to. This summer I made and sent cards reminding friends were not alone. Most recently I made cards for the eldering in nursing homes. I had worked in a nursing home when I was in high school. I knew the feelings of isolation they suffered in the best of times. I could not imagine the isolation they were suffering now. I made and sent cards to the activity director that could be used to give to a resident who needed the pick up, for a resident to send to another resident, or a resident would have a card mail to a family member that have not been able to connect with on the outside of the facility. I like to think that they made a difference for at least one person.
The holidays brought my annual holiday card making effort. I made cards, with RangerSir composed a letter and used software to create photo collage. It will be last major effort for the year. I am getting the same and am enjoying thinking about all the folks we have met and touched along our lives.
I haven’t yet thought about what 2021 will bring, but I am sure that for the near future it will be much like 2020 has been. I suspect it will include more cards and letters just to say hi and stay connected. It is really all about staying connected new ways, old way….always.