#58 Pen Pals

As I mentioned in the last entry, I've been doing some spring cleaning. While venturing into the depths of my closet, I came across a pile of faded letters and after pouring over their contents, I'm grateful to have lived a large chunk of my life before Facebook or cell phones. Those dusty envelopes hold meaningful sentiments from some of the dearest people I've known. They tell of places traveled, relationships nurtured, and experiences lived... of course, there's usually some dirty talk sprinkled in for good measure (my dear ones know their audience!). Nowadays, I'm as dependent on technology as the next person, but nonetheless, I can't help but romanticize about the days when people would take a wooden cylinder filled with graphite, press it to a piece of paper, and create magic.

In one of the old letters I found, the author made mention that despite living miles from a phone in the Alaskan bush- thus being unable to call anyway, he preferred written communication because of its permanence. Once a phone call has concluded, it's usually forgotten, but a letter can be around for a long time. My grandparent's 70-year partnership started with a letter. After my grandma died we came across that fateful correspondence while sorting through her things. The tattered stationery was filled with elegant cursive sentiments of young love and hope. Luckily my grandpa survived the frontlines, and the dreams detailed in that letter were transformed into reality when he came home from the war. But proximity put an end to their letter writing. 

When my mom was a kid you could buy these little magazines that had a personal ad section where you could sign up for a pen pal from distant lands. She decided to write to a fellow from Australia. That was 50 years ago and they're still writing to each other on occasion. They write of births & deaths, of triumphs & tragedies. They know each other very well for 2 people who live fourteen time zones apart and have never even shaken hands. The same relationship could now be had digitally of course, but then there wouldn't be a chest full of letters to revisit and remember. If quizzed, I'm guessing my mom could likely pick her pen pal's handwriting out of a stack! 

I'm not sure about you, but writing something by hand takes a lot longer for me than it does to type. Putting pen to paper is a commitment. Lately, as I observe all of the fear-mongering and hostility running rampant in the virtual world I have to wonder- if people were first asked to handwrite their thoughts before typing them up and making them public, would that be enough time to reconsider tone and content? Would they take a look at their words and rethink the urge to publish them? Would they decide that their ideas would be more useful as fire-starter than online banter? Who knows. I for one am going to go sharpen my pencil and try to write something that will hopefully be worth reading someday! Anybody looking for a pen pal?

2 comments

  • Vicki
    Vicki Chaska
    Yes! Knowing someone dear held the paper, touched it, folded it and thought about me the whole time. It's precious.

    Yes! Knowing someone dear held the paper, touched it, folded it and thought about me the whole time. It's precious.

  • Rikki
    Rikki Neither here nor there
    Only ever had one penpal. Married her.

    Only ever had one penpal. Married her.

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