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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How about Words on Wednesday?

Today's Mailbox Candy: A real letter from my Big Sis.
It's lovely inside and out... even the envelope is a keeper. 

Several blogs I read post Wordless Wednesday entries. I was thinking about doing something more of a Writers' Workshop on Wednesday. Or What I'm Writing Wednesday. Or maybe What I'm Not Writing would provide more fodder. <g>

Today I got a good old fashioned paper letter in the mailbox, and it reminded me that I recently purchased some new stationery for the very purpose of writing more letters. Of all the writing that I do and have done, it is the good old fashioned pen pal exchange that I think I miss most with the wonder and advances computers have brought us. I love reading those words that were written just for me. I love the little glimpse into my sister's life. I love the words she chose to share with me and that she took the time to think of those moments and knew just which stories and events I would appreciate. 

My son joined International Pen Friends last year, and it was fun to watch him eagerly check the mailbox for his list of potential friends to write. It was a long wait for a boy who is accustomed to instantaneous email delivery. In the months since, he's sent about a dozen letters and he's received about a half-dozen in return. One young lady from Germany seems to be a faithful replier and the two of them have fallen into a somewhat routine letter exchange. I'm tempted to join IPF myself!

I was thinking of all the letters I used to write and receive. I have had several great pen pals over the years. None were so great as my mom, of course. As soon as I moved off to college, her letters started. I think she would keep an open letter to my sister and I going at all times. She'd add a note before breakfast or after doing chores. Sometimes she would add a few words and sometimes she would add pages and pages. I was never at a loss for knowing what was happening on the farm. I kept up with my niece and the neighbor kids through the words of my mother.

I once had a pen pal from Africa. We didn't exchange letters long because something political happened in her country and the mail was prevented from moving in or out. I am ashamed now that I really have no idea what exactly was going on. I was very young, and I probably could not have even found her country on a map at that time, but it was a thrill exchanging letters with her while it lasted. In one letter, she wrote me that they were having trouble with the monkeys getting into the bananas in the yard. It was exactly as we would have talked about the trouble with rabbits in the garden.

When I was 16, I spent a summer living in Nebraska, working as a volunteer at the state developmental center there. Several of my friends from high school wrote me faithfully. My friend Elizabeth and I probably exchanged letters twice a week. My friend Ann Marie, who was also away from home for the summer, sent me a cassette tape with a recorded letter and music from the Beatles, Yellow Submarine! I sometimes wonder what that summer would have been like with the options of internet and texting that kids have now. Somehow, I don't think anything could be more delicious than that letter that would come in the mailbox. 

I wrote letters to the friends I made that summer for years after, but eventually we lost touch. Not even the world-wide-web has managed to reunite us. (Diane Asche! Kathy Swanson! Rob Kettleson! If you are out there, drop me a line!) It was through snail mail exchanges that I learned later of the death of the woman who hosted us that summer.

My dad would take us on travels across the United States every summer and I almost always came home with a new Pen Pal. Most of these folks were shirt-tail relatives, as my mom called them. A third cousin in Oregon. A second cousin once removed from the deep, deep south.  

I still have all those letters. Unlike email, which you can store in some electronic cloud until it eventually wisps away completely, those pieces of paper that can be folded and creased fit nicely in a trunk or shoe box (I've got both)....Okay, so you could technically print an email and store it too, but folks rarely send an email worth saving these days and, really, let's think of the trees!

In modern life, I have found that letter writing, like blogging, can be a nice prompt for the muse. When I'm itching to get some words out there, but find myself lacking direction or focus, directing my pen toward a singular audience can a good way of getting the words to flow. Sometimes a letter opens the door to a whole new topic to write about. 

Sending or receiving, it's really hard to go wrong. 


Samantha said...

I like Words on Wednesday :) Maybe blogs have replaced letter writing. Email is more like a phone call. Not that I didn't have long, long chats with friends sometimes when I was younger.

Nancy said...

I've always loved personal letters, both writing them and receiving. That word 'personal' says it all!