I am finding myself with a lot of time on my hands recently and as a result, I have been setting in front of this computer working(?) some times and daydreaming at other times. As one is wont to do when his mind is free to wander, I let it wander. Sometimes it returns and sometimes it doesn’t come back for hours. The other night my mind went somewhere for a visit and when it returned, it brought this idea with it. I started thinking about the art of letter writing and what is going to happen to it in our instantaneous, 21st century mode of communicating.
Like a lot of things from my early life, I’m afraid it’s going to disappear because it requires that people know how to converse on paper while at the same time, spelling out whole words. It’s a lot of work.
Letter writing was an important part of my growing up. I expect the nuns drilled the form and parts of a letter into my head probably from 2nd grade (although I couldn’t say for sure); The heading, the greeting, the message or body, the complimentary close or salutation and the signature line.
Letters played an important part in my courtship of Susie. Since she lived in the big city and I lived in Southern Indiana, much of our beginning playful banter took place through the U.S. Mail. Oh yes, there was also my mother’s job as a long distance operator. Had it not been for those two things, I might have married Lynda or Judy or Wanda or Rita or Mary Ann or Nancy or any number of girls who inhabited our little town. (Actually, I’m just kidding. I doubt that rain nor sleet nor dark of night could have kept me from seeing Susie.)
It was interesting to note the progression of our relationship through those letters. The greeting progressed from ‘Dear Susie’ to ‘Dearest Susie’ to ‘My darling Susie’ . You cannot imagine the torment I went through trying to judge how far I could go with that greeting.
In the same vein, The complimentary close went from ‘regards’ to ‘Sincerely yours’ to ‘missing you’ to ‘love’ to ‘all my love’ to ‘Oh my God, I miss you’ over a six or eight month period.
The body or message of the letters became increasingly serious as we wrestled with our future plans and our feelings and the restraints imposed upon them by the church and by our own upbringing. (Well, it was 1963, after all.)
Those letters represent quite a history of the beginnings of our lives together. I haven’t seen them for years but they may still be around somewhere in the barn. Forty or so years ago, when Susie’s twin sisters were about sixteen years old, they got into that pile of letters and we caught them and there was enough embarrassment to go around for three times that many people. I’m hoping they have forgotten most of what they read.
Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I am going to temporarily, at least, try to revive that art of letter writing . Of course, stamps are a lot more expensive than they were in 1962 so I won’t be mailing any of the letters. I’ll stick them out here, instead. I get these crazy ideas from time to time and most often, they never work out so there might be only one letter and this might be it.
We’ll just hope not.