An envelope arrived in the mail last week. It was thick, so I could tell it was crammed with all sorts of papers. My address was printed elegantly by hand on the front and there was a big flashy stamp. In the upper left corner was my cousin Emily’s return address. Seeing that, I knew I was in for a treat.
Inside there was a rather belated Christmas card, but that didn’t matter; it was a stunning hand-stamped creation on homemade paper. Then there was a big, juicy letter spanning about four handwritten pages, complete with little drawings of her latest projects. My cousin is an amazingly creative woman, and by means of her detailed diagrams, explained the transformation of her closet into a hydroponic greenhouse. She’s currently growing spinach and lettuce – not weed, as her friends joke! There was also a full-page sketch of her husband reading on the living room couch, and another of her sister hunched over a pile of nursing textbooks.
This is a typical letter from Emily, believe it or not. She and I have been writing letters back and forth for nearly twenty years. They are always handwritten, as typing would be an affront to our friendship! I am not so artistically inclined, so I usually compensate by writing more than she does, but the intent remains the same. These letters always have been, and continue to be, a tangible demonstration of the special relationship between two best friends.
When we were little, sending and receiving these countless handwritten letters was very exciting. We recounted every single experience, idea, and complaint that we simply had to air or confess, or risk going insane. You know how little girls are, and we two seemed live with a particular kind of intensity! Often we’d call each other right after writing the letter, because the information contained within was so important that it needed to be conveyed instantaneously. This didn’t detract from getting the letter itself; we were merely able to read more deeply into the details.
Though it’s difficult to find the time to write a lengthy, multiple-page letter back to Emily, I find it therapeutic when I do. There’s nothing like putting a physical pen to real paper to help work through the thoughts in one’s head. Often dilemmas that seem insurmountable become easily deconstructed by explaining them to her. Emily is someone to whom I can talk and write easily. If I blabber on, or fail to provide enough detail, or want to rant, I know she’ll read it. And I’ll always hear back, even if it takes a few weeks, or even months with our current busy schedules.
Nowadays, with the number of emails I send and receive daily, these letters are even more meaningful. It’s so rare to get a letter with a handwritten address on the front that when I do, it jumps out at me from the pile of plain-looking, typed fronts. The immediate message I get, even before opening the envelope, is that someone took the time to write me a real letter, and it always puts an instantaneous smile on my face.
I wish more people sent handwritten letters. There’s simply no way an email or text message or Facebook post can replace the personal experience of getting a letter from an old friend. So here’s a challenge: dust off that old stationery set in your desk drawer and put your rusty handwriting to work! If more people wrote letters to their friends, I’m sure the world would be a better place.