31 happy days…the joy of writing and receiving a letter

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Remember letters? Not the ones in your email inbox, but the ones you received in a mailbox. When looking forward to receiving one, I lingered near the door at the usual mail delivery time…waiting, watching, and listening.  The letters I remember most longing for were the ones mailed to my cabin at summer camp (cabin #6, you know). I spent over a month away at camp and by the second week though I was still happy to be there, I was a tad homesick. So I wrote letters en masse and received some in return.

I wrote my friends, my parents, my grandparents and they all wrote back. I am sure they did it a bit out of pity and obligation, but how could they deny me a return post when I spent so much time detailing my adventures and the contents of the unappetizing cafeteria meals? They wrote back encouraging notes, little snapshots of their own summer, and advice about what to eat instead of the wretched casseroles. Letter writing was so rewarding for me at summer camp that I tried it again my first year at college (before unlimited minutes applied to long distance calls). I am sure some of my high school friends were surprised to receive letters from me, and even more surprised at themselves if they returned them.  Some nights I would take a box of stationary to the laundry room armed with a list of people I needed to write and another list of topics I should cover. I liked being prepared to communicate, no unplanned letter contents for me.


I am so grateful to have received some of those letters addressed to me from important people in my life. My grandfather isn’t with me anymore, but I have his handwriting and thoughtful insights on being away from home when you’re thirteen…or even eighteen. I have a box of mementos that includes a letter or two from my husband who could never be accused of being a prolific writer. That just makes them more special.  One year at college my divorced parents each sent me a birthday card. They picked the same card. I threw away lots of other cards, but kept those.

My mother has worried that I won’t have enough mementos for my boys if everything we do to document their lives happens on the web instead of printed photographs and baby book entries. And she has a point. I’ve seen the letters she sent relatives about me when I was a baby and I know I’ve drafted nothing that truly compares to her missives on my growth as a toddler. So perhaps today I will sit down and write a letter about the boys and hope to get one in return. One that I can keep for them to show how completely over the moon I am about almost everything they do. I did say almost everything. I don’t want to write about how potty training is going at all.

I have  made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
Blaise Pascal


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