As 2015 draws to conclusion, it is notable that the most read post of the year in Social Correspondence was Letters to Myself, the story of the amazing Alan Blackman and his exquisitely designed calligraphic envelopes featuring stamps from around the world.
On Gratitude, published for Thanksgiving, attracted hundreds of readers, as did Letters from France 1917–1919; Office Supplies; Postcards from Notables; and Letters from Wisconsin. The commonality among these posts was that they focused, for the most part, on stories about people, as reflected in their letters.
Many people write letters and/or send cards to family and friends at the end of the year, and news sites often tell stories about people’s lives which speak to this tradition. Here is a sampling of these 2015 stories.
Sarah Franklin, in a sentimental feature in The Guardian, describes how a long ago gift to her of a suitcase-shaped Paddington Bear stationery set, complete with stickers and other accessories, made it fun for her as a child to write thank you letters. Today, her own children also are writers, and have received many interesting responses to letters that they have written to public figures.
Apparently, however, writing thank you notes can be just an onerous a chore in the United Kingdom as it is here in the United States. “According to the survey by Postsnap, just over half of UK consumers thanked friends and family in person for Christmas gifts last year, with 22 percent preferring to do so via social media, email or text message. Just eight percent sent a physical card or letter,” wrote Eleanor Daughty for The Telegraph of London. Ms. Daughty, admonishing the reader and advising of the importance of the thank you note, provided tips on how to go about writing one.
In a dark tale of rage, passion and murder, eight-year old Safyre Terry became a newsmaker. In 2013, in an arson-set house fire that killed her father and her three younger siblings, her father saved her life by covering her body with his own. Safyre, who suffered severe, disfiguring burns over 75% of her body, now lives with her aunt, uncle and cousins in New York. When she made a wish in 2015 to receive 100 Christmas cards, family and friends and over 20,000 supporters shared her request on social media. The message went viral, and Safyre received not just hundreds but truckloads of cards –over one million cards and thousands of packages, plus checks to fund medical expenses– way more than she ever imagined possible. Gifts and cards came from the First Family in the White House and from several celebrities she admired. While the arson case has yet to be fully resolved, her radiant smile and indomitable spirit earned her millions of fans and admirers and will not be easily forgotten.
Hermann Zapf was a classic typeface designer, but he also led the way in designing typographical symbols, the precursors to modern emoji. His was one of the notable deaths in 2015 featured in the New York Times Magazine year-end feature, The Lives They Lived. Zapf, born in 1918, invented the typeface Optima. “Classic and solemn,” wrote Willie Staley, “Optima was inspired by the lettering on a tombstone in Florence. Neither serifed nor truly sans – the letters bulge at their ends, but don’t sprout feet – Optima was like Zapf himself: forward looking, yet slyly traditional.”
And finally, in a poignant piece in The New York Times, an airline pilot told the story of the letter he received from his mother, delivered seven years after her death. He still hasn’t opened it. “For now, it’s enough to look at her handwriting, at my name in her hand, and to remember that until I open it, I know that I will hear from her once more… For two years now, on my long flights, I’ve carried the letter,” wrote Mark Vanhoenacker. “Sometimes I wonder if any letter in history has traveled farther than this one.”
Wishing each of you a happy, healthy 2016, with lots of letters in your mailboxes!
Child who asked for Christmas cards got more than 1 million — including one from the Obamas by Sarah Larimer. The Washington Post, Dec. 24, 2015.
8-Year-Old Burn Victim Who Lost Family in Fire Receives Hundreds of Christmas Cards After Sweet Wish by By Caitlin Keating. People.com, Dec. 10, 2015.
The Importance of Writing Thank You Cards by Eleanor Daughty. The Telegraph, Dec. 26, 2015.
Playing Against Type, by Willy Staley. The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 27, 2015.
Safyre Terry Has 430,000 Christmas Cards, but Arson Case Drags On by Katie Rogers. The New York Times, Dec. 18, 2015.
The Unopened Letter by Mark Vanhoenacker. The New York Times, Dec. 27, 2015.
Why I love Writing Thank You Letters by Sarah Franklin. The Guardian, Dec. 26, 2015.