I was out plowing the driveway today, and I took the shoes off the plow so I could remove a layer of the packed snow. The shoes help keep the gravel from being plowed up because they keep the blade of the plow off the ground, but after a while the shoes must come off or the plow just scratches the surface. While I was out I checked the mailbox, but there was nothing there – no bills, no letters, no cards (no, there wouldn’t be on January 1st would there?).
Soon the Christmas cards will no longer come, and I will have to wait another year to read the news of changing careers and shedding tears, baby carriages and children’s marriages. Another year will go by without any written word from many of these folks who sent the cards. It’s about the only connection we have to the fading world of letter writing, which is really too bad considering the joy one feels when a hand-addressed envelope from friends or family is found waiting in the mailbox.
I seem to recall that my mother displayed the Christmas cards we received on the RCA television (but I suppose I could be talked out of this by my sisters). My grandmother would display her cards and letters in pockets on the branches of a large flannel Christmas tree she had made. The tree hung on a door and quickly filled-out as the season progressed. At my home, the cards and letters are left on the table until they are read and then they are saved. However, the pictures are displayed for weeks in a collage-like arrangement which is hung in the kitchen.
I recently received a couple letters from two women who shared their thoughts with me on writing. Both of them also sent me the Christmas letters they send out to friends and family. They have not given their permission for me to include their names, nor have I asked for it. So I will only refer to them as J and M. (believe me when I say J and M are not their real names).
In her Christmas letter M wrote about how as a little girl she was so happy to find a card in her mailbox that her aunt had sent her. Those cards she received were so special to her that she has saved them for sixty years. She writes that she “enjoys getting cards from family or friends no matter how much or how little is written in them. I still love getting mail in my mailbox just like that little girl did all those years ago.”
J has kept a daily journal for over sixty years. She tells me that she received a diary from a neighbor lady and has written in a journal every day since. “Our lives go by so fast, but I must write down each day regardless how mundane it may be (according to some people)!”
I have much to learn, but I do feel we are witnessing the death of the hand written personal letter, and other than J. I do not know anyone who keeps a daily journal or a diary. I believe I know how to record the mundane (according to some people), but perhaps I could step it up a bit from once a week to a daily habit, privately, of course, as who wants to read that every day? And there may be someone who would appreciate getting a letter from me.
Social media, sending text messages and emails are poor substitutes for letter writing and keeping a journal for others to read someday. Clearly, they just scratch the surface of a lasting keepsake. Slip off your shoes, get comfortable and hand write a letter or start a journal. It will stick around longer than this season’s snow.