I was recently visiting my parents and in addition to long walks through the woods and amazing home cooked meals we did a lot of reminiscing. We watched old movies of when my sister and I were babies and toddlers and looked through photo albums. One night, after a bottle of wine (ok maybe two) my dad disappeared and we figured he had gone to bed. But we were all surprised when he came down the stairs with his arms full of binders!
He, and my mom, had saved every letter, note, piece of correspondence they exchanged during the few years they were newly engaged yet separated due to jobs and university. There were hundreds of pages of letters back and forth. I was astounded, and it occurred to me that this is a lost artform. My husband and I exchange texts or emails. My children write thank you notes at Christmas and their birthdays but that’s it, because they text and email too. As I sat flipping through these pages of letters what really struck me was the commitment they showed to each other.
Imagine sitting down these days with a pen in hand and filling several sheets of paper with all your thoughts and feelings, the trivial happenings and not so trivial questions to ask and decisions to make. This wouldn’t just take a few minutes, this would be a real time commitment and thus a dedication to communicating with someone you truly love. This just doesn’t happen anymore with snapchat, Instagram and facebook all at our fingertips. We can readily peruse a loved one’s life in a few minutes just by scrolling through their profiles. But it isn’t the same!
A letter has the touch of the person who is writing it, the flow of their speech, the curve of their handwriting and the recipient knows that letter was written just for them. There is no “send to all” with a written letter.
My mom told me how they would each write every day, and wait eagerly for the next letter to arrive. It’s how they really grew to know each other, spilling their thoughts and fears to each other across the lonely miles. It’s also how they planned their wedding, discussing and occasionally disagreeing over all the details of their upcoming special day. And the best part is they kept them all. My sister and I have evidence of the love, commitment and dedication my parents had, and still have, for each other. We know how hard it was on them to be apart, not because they told us but because we can read and feel them missing each other in a way we have never known.
I know it’s futile to wish we could go back to the simple letter writing days, technology is here to stay! But what I can do is show my children how much love there is between their grandparents, and share with them the wonderful letters we will cherish long after my parents are gone. Evidence of a love so strong it stretched the years and miles with paper, ink and combined hopes for a future together full of love, family and memories.