A Random Letter in the Mail

Have you ever received a random letter in the mail?  Random, as in an unanticipated, handwritten note or letter? The use of first-class mail has been in decline for decades, and letters have become almost rare.   Any letter or note in the mail is a gift, whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, a holiday greeting.  But most of our communications today are virtual, via social media, email, text messaging, and more, using multiple platforms. Given the shift in how we communicate, a random letter in the mail is a welcome surprise.  Within…

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The Etiquette of a Condolence Letter

Recently, the need arose for me to write a condolence letter.  Over the years, I have sent many cards and notes to friends who had suffered a loss, but this time was different.  It was a friend who died, a friend with whom I had been out of touch for several years.  I did not know her family or how to contact them, yet it felt important to reach out to them. Handwritten notes As a first step, I contacted the senior living community where she had been living, in an upscale city located to the…

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Politics and Pandemic

Land's End, San Francisco At last, there is good news on the horizon, a promise that a year dominated by politics and pandemic will soon be over.   Politics never go away, but hopefully, the days will become calmer now that the November presidential election is finally over and a new administration is on the horizon.   With two new vaccines rolling out, there also is hope that the pandemic will subside in the first half of 2021.  Election years are always difficult, but 2020 was a doozy.  It was a brutal year in almost every way possible. …

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The Chain Letter Has Returned

A grammatically challenged chain letter invites poetry contributions In a recent two-week period, I received six chain letter invitations.  Other than one overlap, each was from a person unrelated to the others.  Three of them were called “Quarantine Recipes.”  The other three, in various forms, were about passing along an inspirational quote, poem, thought, or song.  Each is structured in a short pyramid, e.g. send the requested item to the person at the top of the list, remove their name, add your name to the bottom, and repeat the request to 10 (or 20) additional, hopefully…

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Post Office Boxes by Kay Roberts
The chain letter today is distributed by email

Post Office Boxes by Kay Roberts

On a recent little vacation in Calistoga, I realized I would miss a friend’s major birthday if I didn’t find and mail her a card.  So I got myself out of a steaming pool and over to the post office.  I go to Calistoga for those steaming pools at least twice a year, but I never had occasion before to visit the post office, and when I saw the rows of beautiful old post office boxes, I became (excessively, says my husband) nostalgic. What memories of growing up in the 1940s and 50s in Cumberland, Wisconsin…

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Holiday Greetings

As another year draws to conclusion, it is time once again to extend sincere holiday greetings to friends and family, near and far. This, of course, includes the readers of Social Correspondence! Thank you for allowing me into your lives over this past year.  For those of you who have shared comments, subjected yourselves to interviews, or contributed guest columns, special thanks! Our mailbox has been filled daily for the past couple of months. First, there was that annual slew of holiday catalogs, offering tantalizing glimpses of everything from flannel pajamas to expensive electronic equipment. Despite…

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Postcards and Notes
Volkswagen buses meet on Old Route 66

Postcards and Notes

Summer and fall are excellent times for vacation, and there is no better way to share those experiences than by sending postcards and notes by mail. It’s quick, it’s easy, and there are beautiful options to represent those good times. But more to the point, postcards and notes are a great way to communicate, anytime and any place. “Having a great time in (fill in the blank). Wish you were here.” This is a standard cliché about messages on postcards, that they are rote and say very little. But nothing could be further from the truth.…

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Off the Grid

Increasingly, my reading and research are dependent on electrical power and our cable infrastructure. I check my devices, a smart phone, tablet and laptop, regularly to catch up on email and social media, and to see what is happening in the news. I often wonder how we managed before the Internet, when things were off the grid. When our country was first settled, mail service was spotty and intermittent. The methods of delivery improved only because the British wanted to keep tabs on the colonies, and, most importantly, to collect taxes. Back then, people warmed themselves…

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A Post-Truth World

Actions throughout the world, as reported in the daily news, are disturbing. War, famine, violence, aggression and poverty are ongoing staples in the news cycle. Unfortunately, a significant new victim has emerged in recent times:  the truth. We now live in a post-truth world, at least in the political sense. Most of us grew up, I believe, with the admonition by our parents and teachers to always tell the truth. The truth would always win out, and things would go worse for us should we be caught in a lie. Perhaps the fear of being caught…

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Love Letters from Wisconsin Lumber Camps

By Catherine Roberts Life in the Wisconsin lumber camps in the 1920s, revealed through letters written to my Aunt Lois from 1924 – 1925, was not easy. The letters, preserved for nearly a century in a Milady of Quality Chocolate Covered Brazil Nuts box, tell a story about the everyday news and concerns of this long-ago way of life Aunt Lois, of course, was young and pretty, but not all of the letters addressed to her are love letters. One letter, postmarked January 14, 1924, is from a lumber camp outside Hannibal, Wisconsin. My aunt must…

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