December is Write a Friend Month so I’m on my way to the post office to buy a few of those endangered adhesive squares known as postage stamps.
I’m the first to admit that I get my jollies easily. Although other forms of communication interest me—smoke signals, yodeling, sign language, maritime flags—the alphabet truly amazes me. With just 26 symbols, the thoughts of one brain can be transferred into anoth
er. They can convey love (Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poems), tell stories (“Gone With the Wind”), or revolutionize our government (the Declaration of Independence).
Man’s written messages and their delivery have evolved many times since our primitive petroglyphs on cave walls. History has recorded our progress through the Old West pony express, carrier pigeon, the X’s marked on doors by hobos and Post-it notes.
Naturally, the means used to transfer our news evolved as well. They range from bones, clay tablets, papyrus rolls, parchment paper, slates, quill pens, chalk, telegraph, typewriters, copy machines, and digital printers.
Today our young people use an abbreviated language to send electronic messages via e-mail, texting, tweeting, and Facebook. For them, the notion of sitting down to hand write a letter would be ludicrous, but worse, they wouldn’t know how!
Perhaps I have a double standard for I can’t remember the last time I literally put pen to paper, other than to sign a credit card receipt. In grade school, the nuns taught calligraphy and I remember struggling to duplicate their blackboard examples on my Big Chief tablet. Over and over I covered lines with big round O’s that looked like rolls of barb wire. Alas, I was never able to master graceful script and my handwriting is atrocious. For this reason, and because like everyone else, my time is limited, I let the computer write for me.
I have a Mennonite friend whose religious beliefs eschew modern contraptions like computers, and another elderly friend who simply chooses not to delve into electronic technology. Each lives in a different state and each keeps in touch with me via handwritten letters.
Whenever I see one of their envelopes in my mailbox, I automatically smile. I derive great pleasure in settling down with a cup of coffee to slowly savor the pages bringing me up to date on their lives. I’m appreciative of the time they’ve taken to write these missives as opposed to a few keystrokes on a cell phone. Afterward I can lay the letter aside to re-read later and enjoy all over again.
Progress is inevitable. It makes our lives convenient so we don’t have to deal with sweaty horses or heavy pieces of stone to get our mail. Nevertheless, I will mourn the passing of handwritten letters, and will do my best to delay its demise. I will write those two friends this very day and send to them, as I do to you dear Reader, best wishes for a happy, healthy 2013!