I sat down to write a note to a friend this morning and the project soon grew. Now I realized I have much more to say than one small greeting card would hold.
The friend recently moved and the house came with a rotted and dying mailbox. So when she and her son built a new one it seemed fitting to send her mail. I didn’t want the mailbox to sit empty and feel lonesome and cold. Nobody sends mail anymore. You don’t even get bills by mail anymore. Everything is electronic. About the only thing we’ve gotten lately have been ads from guys running for political office out here in the woods. I think they are the only ones who still believe in mail.
But last night Beaven and I went to a wedding of two young people we both have grown to love through working with them at Camp Gilmont. I have known the bride since she was a counselor at the camp. At the reception each guest found an envelope at our seat with a note hand written by both the bride and groom. Guests spent the first few minutes of the reception practically in tears as we read the touching notes that captured our relationship with the couple in a very moving way. For Beaven and I, the notes touched on what they had learned from us as a married couple on what marriage would be like based on what they had seen in our own marriage. Given that the wedding was three days before our 54th anniversary it was like receiving an anniversary gift. We decided our gift to ourselves this year would be to re-read them on our anniversary.
These two coinciding writing events reminds me what a lost art writing anything by hand has become. I have no idea how many iterations our notes from the bride and groom went through but there were no mistakes in them; nothing struck through or second-guessed, yet they were eloquent while simple. And this couple wrote probably 100 of these notes.
I have heard that there were only three or four versions of the Declaration of Independence. Paper was scarce in 1776. You didn’t just wad it up and toss it in the trash if you made a mistake or didn't like what you had written. Once you sat down to write you needed to know what you were going to say. The changes to the Declaration of Independence were mostly difference of political opinion between Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
I've been de-cluttering our storage spaces. I ran across the letters my parents wrote each other during their courtship and also the ones they wrote during the war. I guess Mother packed them. They are organized by date with a string tying them in packets. Once in a while I'll pick one out to read and it really captures their personality. The gift is especially poignant since my mother died when I was young and I never really knew her. The details are astonishing: prices they paid for things, slang terms, movies they watched, places they went and relatives they spent time with. I feel like I'm reading a special kind of history story: my own history.
Facebook has replaced journaling. Our lives are lived in paragraphs instead of pages. Because we have the ability to backspace and fix anything we want, sometimes there is far less thought put into what we say before we say it. Three sentences later we forget an insensitive thought and it is sent to the world for display.
However, because of this same ability, I am now able to easily compose exactly what I want to say to my friend with the new mailbox, then print it in whatever font I choose and size the font as large as I want (the older the friend, the larger the print—my friends are increasingly graduating from 12 point to 14 and sometimes even 16 point print)
I’ve also started stealing graphics from the internet and saving them to use for cards—the same cards that I never actually send since I usually just communicate via Facebook. The only exception being the friend with the new mailbox. I think I’m going to need to alert her on Facebook to check her mailbox now. As soon as I mail it.
I know this sounds like a lot of trouble. Eventually, the paper greeting card will get thrown into the trash or recycled. There is simply not enough room on the planet. Electronic communications really is the wave of the future. But, for now, for me, sometimes Old School is the Best School.