This morning I needed to snail mail my sister in Connecticut. It was a copy of a news article about our great grandmother from when our grandmother was only 15 years old. As I put it into the envelope, I thought, I am not wasting this stamp on just this article. I am going to send a note with it. The note turned into a short letter. A quick, sloppy one because of the shortage of time, but still, something I put some thought into.
After I finished it, I remembered seeing copies of letters my grandfather had written to this same sister of mine when she was young. At the time she sent them to me, I was of course, interested in what he had to say to her. As interesting as it was, I was struck by the beauty of his penmanship. His grammar was proper, as was his punctuation. He was an older man by the time he wrote these letters. His hands and feet would soon become gnarled with arthritis, making it difficult to do much. I didn’t really know him. The only memory I have of him was when I was about three years old, sitting beside him on a bench outside, silently swinging my legs back and forth and trying not to bother him. No words were said. I doubt I remained long, but I remember that very clearly. Seeing these letters gave me a hint of the man, who he was, and what mattered to him.
I decided today, to start writing letters again. Not emails, texts, or messaging. Letters in my own handwriting, my own fully spelled words, complete with proper grammar and punctuation. Someday, maybe my grandchildren will read them. Oh, but then, what if they can’t read cursive? Will they seek out their parents to read it to them? Or will we get past this silliness of not teaching them cursive? Think about the fluid, swirling signatures of famous people on important documents or autographs. The art of calligraphy will die off. No one will bother with putting pen to paper because it’s all digital, or printed on computers. Our fingers will only know the touch of keyboards and at some point, perhaps we will only have to think it, and it will appear on a screen or on paper.
It might sound a little sci-fi, but when my grandfather wrote those letters, he could never have imagined the world today and how it communicates. My mother wrote stories for my oldest daughter when she was tiny. They are in her own handwriting and my daughter cherishes them. She has suggested to me that I do the same for my little granddaughters. A keepsake. Something they can hold onto and say, “My grandmother wrote these for me in her own hand.” It would be very easy for me to sit at my computer like I am now and write, but I won’t do it that way. No, the stories I write for them might be the only thing they have left of me in my own handwriting.
How quickly we let go of things that seem to impede us in getting things done in an expedient manner. When was the last time you made a cake from scratch? Wrote a letter? Read a real book? Made a phone call and had a long conversation? We are always in such a hurry to get somewhere, get something done, or just get it over with as little effort as possible. I was raised to appreciate time and effort. The time and effort it took for someone to crochet or knit an afghan. The time and effort it took someone to go out of their way to pick something up for someone else. The time and effort it took to write a letter or make a card. My mom always said she preferred a home- made card over a store bought one. It says I care enough about you to take the time and put in the effort. I could have taken the easy way out, but instead, I wanted to do something special for you and feel good about it.
So, despite the high cost of postage, I will be writing letters again to people who matter to me. Short ones, long ones, funny ones, and probably some sad ones. I will get used to the tired hand and work on improving my handwriting again. They might not be as pretty as they once were, but while I can, I will. I may just teach my grandchildren how to write in cursive and tell them it’s our own little secret. A way we can communicate just between us. Show them how to sign their names with a flourish that says this is who I am and I am proud of it. I need to get to those stories before they are too old to bother to read them. I will explain the love that goes into the time and effort of those who don’t take shortcuts or rely solely on technology. It might make them different than their peers, but that’s ok. It will make them better people. And I hope they love me for it, so when they look at them after their children are grown, they will smile and think, “This is Grandma. I remember her.” And let the stories commence…