Rummaging through the attic last week, I chanced upon some letters my parents had written each other years ago in the late 90s, complete with yellowing postcards and peeling stamps! Intrigued, I sat down to read right away. Flipping through the letters, I learned so much about my family, including how my mom loved listening to the Backstreet Boys mixtape my dad made for her or that my grandfather was a fantastic dancer and football player!
For centuries, letters have been the bearers of news both good and bad, stories of love and loss, those of friendship and estrangement. Many a letter had been sealed with a kiss, many an envelope glued with a tear. Although writing letters is slowly turning obsolete, letters have left an indelible mark on the lives of many. It is difficult to imagine a world without them.
As I reveled in what it means to write to someone, a childhood memory came rushing back to me; the image of a 7-year-old me scribbling out a letter to my cousins in the US. The corner of my mouth had ink all over it from chewing on the pen while jotting down my thoughts. Those letters have since become memorabilia of the wonderful childhood I had. I wish we’d exchanged more of them before switching to email like all the cool kids were doing in 2010.
Famous children’s author Roald Dahl used to write letters to his mother every week. He wrote them during his childhood at a boarding school and continued to do so until he returned home from World War II. His mother kept them all in bundles sealed with green tape until her very last day. Writing a letter is a deeply personal and meaningful act. Funny salutations, elaborate postscripts, and vivid descriptions are some of the things that bring a letter to life for the reader. The sender has to take the time to choose the right words to convey their feelings to the recipient. When you write a letter to someone, you show them how much they mean to you by deliberating so much on what to say to them.
Of course, with the advent of email, instant messaging, and social networking, letters have become scarce, and the act of writing one, even more so. It is a habit that requires patience and dedication from both the writer and the recipient. Moreover, the shift towards paperless communication and documentation, in general, has contributed to letter-writing losing its popularity. Nevertheless, putting pen to paper and letting the swirling thoughts in your head take shape in words is something everyone needs to experience at least once.
Imagine a world without the teapot letter Jim wrote Pam or one without the letters in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”. A world without Paddington Brown’s meticulous letters to his aunt Lucy is one that I know I wouldn’t want to live in. Try writing a letter to someone you love today. You might even learn a little more about yourself!