Monday, December 2, 2013

38 x 38 - A Handwritten Letter

In my treasures, some of those that I hold most dear are handwritten letters. It began when I was young and I'd look forward to receiving mail from my Great Grandma. Her handwriting was beautiful - loopy and graceful. Her letter written on a piece of stationary she'd handpicked. My name written clearly on the envelope. I rarely wrote her back.

Later, I had a pen pal here and there as part of a school program. I always looked forward to the letters in the mail filled with stories from other parts of the world. I'd write back about what happens in our school, descriptions of our little town in Colorado, and lament about this or that.

When my parents divorced, my dad would send letters to me often. He'd send me a note in his awful chicken scratch handwriting and share with me his thoughts. It was not uncommon for him to include a piece of poetry he'd written. I'd write back and I found it was sometimes easier to say what was on my mind in a letter versus over the phone. I'd send back a piece of my own poetry and then later, we'd talk about it on the phone.

When my grandma passed the family bible on to me, I was thrilled to find letters neatly tucked inside. Many dated to the 1920s to family members I never knew. These letters tell of a different time. Back to a time when we couldn't log on to facebook and be accosted by details of every minute of every day for each of our friends. These letters share news on the weather, updates on the kids, and my favorite ones...the love letters expressing undying devotion and fondness.

As an adult, I write little notes to the kids all the time. I slip the notes in their lunch box, under their pillows, or even write notes on the bathroom mirror. Nate and I have a notebook we pass back and forth. He writes something to me whenever he feels like it, passes it to me, and then when I feel like it, I write back.

But I don't normally write letters. It's so much easier to type an email, send a text, or pick up the phone to call. And I don't receive letters either which bums me out.

So this year, I added "Write a handwritten letter once a month" to my annual bucket list.

It was harder than you'd think. We are all so connected via internet and cell phones that sometimes it feels as if I have nothing to share. I also believe we've lost our ability to story tell. We're so used to the "status" update on Facebook that we write the same way - "Kids are good. I'm well. Work's going good."

It takes work to write an interesting letter.

And then there's the "who" - who the heck are you going to send a letter to that you don't communicate with on a regular basis. Unfortunately for me, I had two people in my life in situations that made regular communication difficult so I chose to write to them.

Alex joined the military and while he was at boot camp, regular communication was impossible. Then he left
A surprise visitor this weekend -
Alex stopped in to see Nate!
for pre-deployment training and again, was incommunicado. He never wrote back but occassionally called on the phone and let me know he appreciated the notes from Klamath. I shared news of our lives, what Nate and Marc were up to, and just general Klamath happenings.

He was away from home and just wanted to feel connected.

(A holiday note: when we returned from Burns this weekend, Alex was in town unexpectedly. He stopped by to give Nate a hug, stuck around for some xbox for a minute, and then left to return to more pre-deployment training).

And then there was another good friend of mine who will go unnamed. My beautiful friend had made a mistake that snowballed to another mistake and so on and so forth. Long story short, she ended up in jail for six months. She was so embarassed that she hadn't even told me. I remember her being stressed, I remember wondering why I hadn't heard from her in a month or two. And then I discovered why. I called the jail and got her address. Sent her a letter. It was short and sweet and let her know she was on my mind. It took a month for her to write back and in it, she told me most of the story.

As I had guessed, she was embarassed to tell me so she didn't. Letter writing made it easier to open up. I wrote to her regularly. I didn't share everything in my day-to-day like I did with Alex. We shared thoughts, fears, and worries. Our letters were "deeper" if you will. I didn't feel right lamenting the big shoe sale I missed out on or how bad I disliked this or that....she was in jail and it all seemed insignificant. Instead, I told her my worries about the kids and she shared her fears about her own kids. We talked about our shortfalls but also our strengths. My letters were filled with encouragement and well-wishes but also some of my innermost thoughts.

She was away from home and just wanted to feel loved.

I wrote two letters every single month this year. And I have a feeling I'll continue on. Now if someone would just write back.......:)

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