The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

With texting, social media, smartphones and all the variations of such, letter-writing is becoming a thing of the past. Our mail is filled with catalogs, pleas for contributions, ads and other junk mail. Rarely do I get an actual letter anymore. If I do, it is usually from someone older.

Recently, I have received a couple of thumb drives from my brother, filled with what he refers to as “The Family Archives.” Old pictures, letters, certificates, and newspaper clippings have been scanned by him and placed on his computer. He oftentimes emails me snippets, but the thumb drives contain massive amounts of material.

As he scans the “archives,” some questions have arisen. (Fred is a stickier for details and wants to have the dates and events clearly documented.) Some of the questions include “When was the trip to Washington state?” and “What illness did Joe have in 1993?” Some things I remember and others I don’t recall at all. The lesson I am learning is that, my memory isn’t as great as I thought it was. The letters are reminding me of past events that are long forgotten, or as my husband says, “put in the recycle bin of your mind.”

I also realize that my parents were avid letter-writers. As a kid, I knew Mom wrote letters to her sisters and mother back in Pennsylvania and I was encouraged to do so as well, but I didn’t realize that my parents wrote to each other every day when they were apart!

My dad was a hospital administrator and frequently traveled to conferences and meetings. Mom wrote him every day he was gone and he wrote her back.

My brother recently sent me a series of letters that Dad and Mom had exchanged when she was on a trip back East with my sister. I was amazed at how my father figured out exactly where to send the letters as my mom traveled. She stopped in St. Louis along the way and stayed with my aunt. There was a letter in St. Louis for Mom! She stopped in northwestern Pennsylvania to visit other relatives–there was a letter waiting for her. She stayed with her family in eastern Pennsylvania–there was a letter for her every day she was there. Mom had it easier because her daily letters went to Dad at home, but somehow Dad figured out where she would be every day she was gone and he sent her letters to those locations. Amazing!

The letters are filled with mundane, every day things but also lots of love. They are giving me a sense of what I was like as a teenager and the relationships with my siblings and parents. Some things are quite the eye-openers!

The letters also help me remember handwriting. I recognize my mother’s hand right away. My grandmother had distinctive handwriting, even as she became blind from glaucoma. Even my own handwriting–as it has morphed with age.

I also am getting a glimpse of some the paper/stationery we used back then. I am including a letter on stationery with a homesteader’s picture from my dad (he usually typed his letters as his handwriting was difficult to read) and a letter from my mom on plain paper.

mothertofamily1965-06-12-01                      fathertomother1965-06-16