Photo: Getty Images
Remember back in the day when the mailbox didn’t consist solely of junk? When people still got dreaded bills in the mail, but also got something no one knows or seems to care about anymore – a personal letter? Not from a bank or some company trying to get your business. But a real letter. One that might have matching paper and envelopes – maybe even a scent of lavender or rose! If you didn’t recognize the handwriting, you looked at the stamp to see if you could discern where it was from. A return address made your heart bounce as you looked forward to hearing about the life of someone you knew well, or were just beginning to. No return address increased the deliciousness of how this mystery made us feel. Yet all this “back in the day” stuff only really ended in the late 90s. How far and how fast we have come. And how willingly we threw the past and its customs away; all in the name of bigger, better and faster. But is our new personal communication really any of those things?
With letters, we were treated to a few pages crammed with news, jokes and the business of the day. We were filled with a sense of how our friend or family member lived – what their experiences were and how they reacted to the world around them. We reacted too.
Inside the letter might be a few photos, instead of a link where we can download vacation pictures if we so chose; the same link hundreds of others have access to. But these letters? They were really meant for us, as were the photos. The back of the photo contained a handwritten note of where it was taken, what the date was and who was in it. And maybe a funny or poignant comment that brought the picture to life even more.
We opened the letter carefully, because we kept them. Maybe in a special box or cupboard so that when we got older, we could open up a treasure trove of memories and tangible proof that we mattered enough to someone that they spent the time and money to compose and mail a letter to us. Years later we get to touch the paper, put our noses to its scent and trace our fingers around the handwriting of an old friend or, perhaps, someone long gone.