Sunday, June 25, 2006

In the mail

Receiving letters this week has made me think about what a wonderful thing they are. They have a charm that even the best email will never have. I also realized that it's probably been six months since I've written a letter, and even then, it was just note tucked inside a Christmas card.

I wanted to write a real letter again and went searching for my stationery. Just the fact that I had to search was a sign of a real loss in my life. I used to always have a box of simple cream colored Crane stationery engraved with a simple round monogram in blue. What happened to the bird's eye maple stationery box where I used to keep it, my stamps and a good pen? It's either the house gremlins again or a casualty of three moves in two years. Those relocations, though, were almost eight years ago. Surely, it hasn't been that long since I indulged in a real letter. I did find some cute notecards, appropriate for a thank you or congratulatory note. I found a box of plain security envelopes with grace sufficient enough to only pay a bill. I found letterhead, but a personal letter on business letterhead still feels tacky.

Then, I found some nice heavy parchment paper that I've used for resumes. I could create my own stationery! I played around with fonts and borders, eventually settling on a simple layout with a font just fancy enough to stand out, but still be easily legible. It just wasn't the same. The feel of linen based paper, the texture of the engraved monogram, and the size of the sheet all made it a poor second, but it would have to do.

Then I sat down to write, nothing much, just a few words to bring a friend up to date on my life. Seeing my scratchy penmanship in a journal or the notebooks where I work on my fiction is one thing. Seeing it in a letter was quite another. It made me glad that graphology is regarded with some skepticism. All I could think of was that line from Steel Magnolias -- "I'd recognize that handwriting anywhere. You have the penmanship of a serial killer." While I may have received my mother's manners and laugh, I did not get the benefit of her near calligraphic script despite the hours she spent teaching me cursive.

My emails may be more legible, but I can't help but feel that they're a little less me. When my last computer died, in one of the downfalls of a paperless world, I lost a ton of correspondence. They're gone, unlike the box of letters from friends I haven't seen since college...unlike the love letters that remind me of what brought my husband and me together.

I'm going to order another box of real stationery. I'm going to find another nice box in which to keep it. It will be a touch of old fashioned grace, and I think it will be a good balance point to all the time I spend on the computer. Instant revising and spell check are wonderful things, but they pale in comparison to reading and writing a letter worth holding onto.

4 Comments:

Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Snail mail is the BEST. Also there's something about writing something out by hand that stimulates creativity. I'm not sure what that is. Many of my short stories were written out in longhand first. All of my poems start that way. Tom Wolf used to write all his novels out in longhand in ledger books.

June 25, 2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger Celeste said...

I love snail mail. I remember my mama writing my Granny once a week even though they talked every week. i questioned her once about that and she said a letter says more.

June 26, 2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I'm sorry. I love the internet. I love email. Maybe it's because all the people I used to write letters to are out of my life now. But my hands are too arthritic, and my penmanship has always been too awful, for me to favor snail mail over email. I can create so much more fluidly, these days, on a keyboard than on paper.

June 26, 2006 9:00 PM  
Blogger Shelina said...

I too love to receive letters. So when I made my postcards I wanted to make sure I mailed them off so people would get the joy of getting fun mail. I had the hardest time coming up with something to say on them. It's like, you know it isn't something that will be deleted quickly, so you have to say something profound or important.

June 27, 2006 9:50 AM  

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