A handwritten letter, while far from extinct, is nonetheless becoming increasingly rare. Three years ago I launched Social Correspondence with the goal of encouraging people to write more letters. Postings on the site may often be off-topic, but communicating with one another remains of top importance. This post is dedicated to the art of the handwritten letter.
Recently my mailbox held a surprise, a handwritten note from my older daughter, who currently lives in the UK. “A mother like no other,” the big cat and little cat on the cover illustration told me.
The surprise was that it was a Mother’s Day card. Here in the U.S., Mother’s Day is not until May. A quick Google search, however, informed me that the British celebrate Mother’s Day on March 26. The card was perfectly timed for arrival before the appropriate day.
It was, of course, the handwritten letter that made this card extra special. It detailed possible activities for our upcoming visit with her in Washington, D.C. Walks, parks, museums and swimming were on the list, all wonderful activities, sure to please.
Our other daughter is a true master of the handwritten letter. She has had plenty of practice in the past two years, writing thank you notes for wedding gifts and then, almost a year and a half later, for baby gifts. Her notes, cards and letters are anything but perfunctory. They may not always be timely, but each one is an individual work of handcrafted art, thoughtful, personal and meaningful. I know this because people often tell me so.
I would recognize either of my daughters’ handwriting anywhere. This is part of what makes each of us unique, the way we form our letters. A handwritten letter also requires that we choose our thoughts carefully, before committing to paper.
This was perfectly conveyed in a recent editorial in the Darien Times (CT). “Pen and paper doesn’t have spell-check — it doesn’t have an undo button, it doesn’t have a backspace. It doesn’t have an autocorrect. A letter gives us pause — to take our time to think out our sentences, and what kind of message we want to send.”
Newspaper writers are not unknown to wax poetic about letter writing. It seems to be related to those who revere all things in print. John Fountain, writing for the Chicago Sun Times, recently wrote about the value and meaning of old letters: “In the attic, buried in an old box or crate. Long lost or forgotten pages of life and time. Tattered, yellowed or faded, they whisper secrets,” he said.
Not all old letters whisper secrets, for sure. But however mundane the content, handwritten letters bring back images and memories of loved ones, both present as well as those long-gone. They tell a story about a relationship with someone you clearly care for, perhaps a grandparent or parent, a dear friend, a spouse or other loved one.
As handwritten letters become increasingly rare, we lose a part of our collective history. In today’s costly housing market, who even has space to keep those old letters? But I like the optimism of John Fountain: “Handwritten letters predate Gutenberg. They will surely outlive Zuckerberg.”
Let us revive the art of the handwritten letter. Practice your handwriting and collect your thoughts! Send a letter today. Reminder: Mother’s Day is May 14, 2017
Make a Note of It. Stratford Star (Editorial) March 23, 2017
Handwritten Letters – Memories and a Personal Imprint by John Fountain. Chicago Sun Times, March 24, 2017