When you check your mailbox for the day’s mail, how excited are you to find a few pieces of junk mail you never solicited? Probably not very. Add to that let-down feeling the worry about the unnecessary waste of paper. Sigh. By contrast, what do you feel when you pull a handwritten card or letter from your mailbox? A happy little thrill? Mm hmm, I thought so.
With the advent of electronic communication we have experienced the decline of this happy little thrill in our lives. Handwritten cards and letters have been replaced with emails, text messages, live phone calls or voice mails, except, fortunately, around holidays and birthdays, when we still get to experience this dear form of communication as it comes through the snail mail.
What is it about the lines and curves of pen on paper that gives such significance and value to the handwritten cards and letters we receive? For one thing, when we receive handwritten correspondence we know it was composed specifically for us, so it creates an intimate exchange. We know that the sender took the time to sit and reflect while creating the message, so we can feel the thoughtful care given to connect in this manner. With the passage of years, these cards and letters also become story-telling time capsules — precious, palpable links to what and where our lives and the lives of our loved ones have once been.
I received a treasure trove of handwritten cards (circa 1930s to 1950s) that have given me a sweet glimpse into the tender caring my maternal grandparents had for each other. Not long before my mother passed away, she gave me a big bundle of cards shared between my grandfather and grandmother to mark and celebrate various occasions such as Mother’s Days, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmases and so on. Also included were cards from my mother to my grandmother and birthday cards from relatives to my mother in her tender years. Not only is the art beautiful, but the sentiments touching, and the exquisite cursive script (especially my grandfather’s) lovely to behold. That my grandmother and mother saved these to savor their sweetness again and again is a testament to the power of the handwritten word. I, too, am cherishing this gift. I’ve shared a few of them below:
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Since April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, let’s honor this age old tradition by taking the time to hand write letters or cards (postcards count, too!) to friends and family members, near and far. If you are feeling especially inspired you can even make your own cards, which will be doubly appreciated by those on the receiving end. Perhaps it is unrealistic to think that we can fully resurrect this slower form of communication. But adding and maintaining this thoughtful, artful practice can add depth and dimension to our daily lives that sometimes seems lacking in this 21st century of quick and fleeting electronic communication. And think about how much more satisfying it will be to visit your mailbox!