The Lost Art of Letter Writing

By Shirley Hailstock

During this time, when so many of us are home, we've done some things we'd put off because there wasn't time to do it. The other day I was working on my book and my daughter and finished her school day. The mail arrived and she asked to go and get it from the box at the curb. I absently said it was all right. So, she ran down the driveway and came back with the letters and flyers (such as they are) and put handed them to me. (Then we washed our hands.)

I realized how often she seems so happy when the mail arrives. I know the feeling. As a third-grader, I used to write letters to my father. We were in D.C. and he'd gone to Buffalo, NY to look for work. While he was there, I'd write to him and I looked forward to receiving his responses when they came. I wished I'd save those letters. I remember telling him about my day, what happened at school, what I'd learned.



In college, I was a member of ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps). It was a great way to meet guys. When they went off to summer camp (military camp), I'd write to them. I wrote a letter every day. The letters I got back I did keep.




The same with letters from friends in Vietnam. I had a pen pal in England that I wrote to from my Freshman year in high school until college. As a writer, I joined a group of women who wrote poems and stories and we sent them to each other for reading and critiquing.



I treasured those letters, loved when they appeared in my mailbox. Even now, in the age of e-mail, I love seeing an actual letter. I've seen my daughter's face light up when a letter comes with her name on it. It's generally an invitation to a party or a thank you note for attending one. She keeps them until they become tattered and unreadable.



Even though my days are still full of writing on my computer, cooking meals I wouldn't ordinarily have time to do, and home-schooling, I think of the lost art letter writing. I suggested we write some letters to her friends and coaches (one whose tested positive for the coronavirus), hoping they will return with a letter addressed to her.

Small gestures can result in great happiness (and I didn't get that from a fortune cookie).

Write a letter to someone. Use a pen and paper. Make their day.




As always, keep reading. . .

Comments

  1. So true, Shirley, that there’s something very special,about sending and receiving letters. I loved to,get them as a child, and even as an adult. Nowadays ‘letters’ usually come in the form of Christmas cards (one custom I still like to keep, adding a note) But your post has given me the idea to send my granddaughter ‘real’ mail so she can experience that pleasure. Thanks for that!!

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    1. I do the Christmas Card newsletter. It's type with photos and looks like a newsletter. My family loves them. If I don't sent, they think I'm ill. Still, it doesn't replace a genuine letter. I have a niece graduation high school. I'm sending her a letter so she also has this experience.

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  2. I love letters, too. I've written some in the past year or so, trying to revive it at least in my little corner. My husband was in Vietnam, and when we had one memorable fight-by-mail (we weren't married then), my letters to him went floating off down the Mekong River. Neither of us ended up keeping our letters, but we still have the memory of getting and sending them.

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    1. I have some letters I kept from the past, but the ones that meant the most to me are gone except for the memories.

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  3. Love this post. I wished I'd save some letters from my mother when we'd moved away, and I wished she'd saved letters she wrote to my father when he'd gone off to find work during the Depression. I still send and receive handwritten notes with a couple of friends--can't help but wonder how long mailed notes and cards will even be around.

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  4. I wonder that too. I taught my kids to send handwritten thank you notes whenever it was necessary. I do that too. It's more personal.

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  5. "Small gestures can result in great happiness." I love that! I love the photo, too. You all look so nice in your uniforms. Yes, handwritten notes warm my heart. I've sent one or two to my mother while she's been shut in, even though I call every week. I should send more.

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    1. I sent a note to one of the coaches. She's going through some health issues unrelated to the virus, but her spirits were down.

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  6. Shirley, I love your ROTC pic. Brightest smile in the bunch. There really is something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail. When I moved away for grad school, my grandmother sent me a letter and $20. She said she expected me to write to her consistently or she wanted her $20 back. It made me laugh and, of course, I wrote back consistently! I felt so excited to get a handwritten note from her in the mail and I saved every letter.

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    1. When we used to do the round robin with other writers, I cherished the day the packet arrived. There would be five letters in it along with some written poems for critiquing. I saved all those letters. I have volumes of them since we did it for several years. I go back now and then and read them. If you start reading, it takes hours because you just keep reading and keep remembering. It's like photos from the past. You can't stop at one.

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  7. I was the oldest and first to go away to school. My five little sisters sent me letters regularly, so did my parents. I kept them all. When my sister's kids went off to college, I returned their college letters to me to them. They and their kids had a great laugh over them. My mom's letters were always full of unsolicited advice as she lived vicariously through me. She never got to college because I and the next four quickly got in the way. Letters are still treasures!

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    1. When I went to college, I wrote home to my dad every week. I was away, homesick and with people who were soooo different than I was. It was comforting.

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  8. I still treasure the letters my parents sent through the years. I never got rid of any of them intentionally. Few other people seem to write letters, though emails are reviving the practice slightly. But there's something special about someone taking the time to put it on paper.

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    1. I think email is just dashed off. A letter is something you think about and compose.

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