In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people's lives.
I am part of a cusp generation, the last of those who may have had pen and paper pen pals. I have not forgotten the feel of feather-light airmail vellum envelopes with their red and blue edges. The penmanship of friends and family I have corresponded with is still fresh in my mind. For many reasons, electronic correspondence makes more sense today. Perhaps only one reason - speed. Perhaps that too, is its great downfall. We live in an age with no pause between reception of message and reply. I'm not sure we are better for it. Email and text have really replaced phone calls more than letters. Letters just sort of faded away.
Christmas is the one time of year when the mailbox once again brings real, tangible messages from far away. Today more than ever I treasure handwritten addresses and signatures. It is a truly restorative treat to sit quietly and pour over the new pictures of my children's friends even if I have seen some of them on a screen.
I sat with a cup of tea today and read a multipage letter from an old friend. She has email. So do I. It is different somehow to sit and read her stories of the year past and how she felt about it all. After her letter came a card with a short note from my late mother's best friend from school. We do not know each other well but the moments she took to tell me she was thinking of us mean more than I can say.
Old fashioned handwritten correspondence was something that fell by the wayside as the tempo of my life inched upwards. My own bookish and artsy younger children are helping me revisit this habit. I hope we can turn this around a bit, for the sake of us writers as much as for those we send our letters to.