When I was little, maybe eleven and twelve, my great grandmother mailed me handwritten letters on yellow legal paper in her big, scrawling cursive.
Grammy wrote about her garden, the dogs, family get togethers, things she remembered. I don't recall anything that would have been news, as in the happenings of the day per se. At that time, she was in her mid-eighties, living in her not-renovated-since-the seventies' home with her three dogs and persimmon trees in the backyard.
Grammy was never bored. She cared for her dogs like they were part of the royal family. Each week they had baths and were groomed by Grammy herself (she had show dogs in her day and owned a pet kennel). Those dogs ate only the best food: boiled chicken. Grammy was preparing organic, natural dog food before it was a thing.
She baked cookies: persimmon cookies and banana nut. I wasn't really a fan, but I don't know anyone else who made those cookies.
I loved receiving and reading those letters. Through the years and moves they inevitably were misplaced. When I went through the memorabilia of my childhood a few years ago and could not find her letters, I cried.
Grammy passed away when I was twelve. There are several memories of her in my head and heart, but sometimes I wonder. How much did her letter writing help to impress her memory, her values, her tender affection on my young mind?
Would I recall her so clearly without those letters? Perhaps not.
Continuing a Beloved Tradition
Writing letters is one of those things I think so many of us have good intentions about, but it seems hard to do.
It is neither urgent and, in this day, and time, not seen as important. Afterall, by the time a letter gets to the recipient via "snail mail," the news has inevitably changed, the weather altered, and perhaps even the problem resolved.
We use other methods to communicate news these days, but text and email can't communicate the love and affection, even the encouragement a written letter can.
But writing and receiving letters does something to shape the most tender parts of us: our hearts and minds, perhaps our very souls. We connect with others on an intimate level, even through a casual letter. Perhaps it is not even the words written, but the affection communicated through the care of writing, addressing, and sending letters.
April was officially National Letter Writing Month.
I must confess that of all the months this year, I wrote fewer letters last month than any month this year so far. Oh, the irony.
I could come up with all sorts of excuses, but the fact is I simply slipped off the letter writing wagon, losing my focus and getting caught up in a lot of activity.
So I decided to pretend May is National Letter Writing Month.
(Will anyone notice? Probably not since I think the official month went pretty much unrecognized).
Since, in fact, the art of letter writing has indeed become an art, I think I can easily create a faux letter writing month and recommit myself to a beloved habit that fell to the wayside.
If you are considering the joy of receiving – and the art of writing- letters, but are questioning where to start, here are a few ideas to make the personal task easier.
It really is the thought that counts. The attention and care to sending something in the mail speaks volumes to the recipient.
Don't worry about being profound or even terribly wordy.
Instead, focus on the recipient and scribble a few sentences that you will think will brighten their day, or give them something to think about.
A Few Things For What to Write
Who might you brighten with your thoughtfully written words? The words don't have to be your own. Quote a beloved poet to start your letter with.
Who would you like to receive a letter from?
What is something you cherish about that person that you've not said for some time?
What sweet memory might be worthwhile to remind them of?
A beloved mentor was starting to show signs of memory loss. It hit me that I might not have long to say all I wanted to. It's amazing how the words pour out when time is short. There weren't a lot of words in that letter, but they were heartfelt.
Is there something you want to plan? A gathering, trip, reunion. Why not spark the idea in written form first, let each person percolate with the idea.
A Few Ideas for Things to Send
Not feeling terribly wordy? Sending something physical can be just as meaningful. After all, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
We all see pictures on digital platforms these days, but who takes time to print and mail pictures? Sending a few photos from a recent (or not so recent) gathering, event, or holiday will bring a smile to someone's face.
How about an article from a magazine? I still receive a few each month. Perhaps a cleanly clipped article tailored for a friend or family member would be a way to show you care. You can write a few sentences about how the article sparked their memory or reminded you of them.
A Few Ideas for Decorating Snail Mail
Stickers, stamps and a bit of washi tape are popular décor items on my envelopes. Sometimes I will insert a few stickers into the card or letter for the recipient to use too.
Another fun idea is to write a quick note on the inside flap of the envelope so when it is opened, the reader will get a fun surprise message.
When I get into the habit of writing and sending letters, there is a bonus that never ceases to surprise me. Joy. It's never expected, yet almost always comes.
Perhaps because the ones I love and care for are on my mind. The proverb really does ring true: it's better to give than to receive.
Happy "National" Letter Writing Month!