Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pull Out A Smile

When our family traveled full time for fifteen years, getting our mail was always an interesting challenge.

I mean, think about it. When you are in hundreds of towns every year, how does your mail catch up with you? Do you retain your own personal mailman to gather up your letters and personally deliver them? Do you hire a flock of carrier pigeons? Do you reinstate the Pony Express? Do you just live your life without mail and have a lovely time ignoring all those pesky bills?

Don't I wish.

When we were on the road, we came up with the solution of using Steve's parent's address. Once a week, they would bundle up all our mail in a big Priority Mail envelope and send it to the town where we were headed next. And then if all went well, when we arrived there, our mail would be waiting.

Now remember. The majority of our traveling was done in the olden days, before there was widespread use of the Internet or even (gasp!) e-mail! That meant that opening the mail was the high point of our week because we hadn't been in constant e-mail contact with friends and family around the country.

In fact, we didn't even have (gasp, again!) a cell phone! If we wanted to make a call, we had to go into the church we were singing at and ask to use the church phone. (Putting the charges on our own phone card, of course.) I remember so many times just wishing for a bit of privacy to make a call, as the church secretary sat five feet from me while I talked to my parents or a friend. I was always tempted to say to the secretary, "Wouldn't you like to leave now?" but, alas, I never did.

We thought we were really in high cotton when we finally got a pager. We'd be going down the road and Steve's pager would go off and we would all be so excited by that cutting edge advancement in communication. Unfortunately, we were driving a rig that was over 50 feet long and so just pulling off at a pay phone was not always the easiest maneuver. We'd have to wait until we finally got to a truck stop or a rest area big enough to handle the size of our home on the road and then (sometimes an hour or two later) finally return the page.

I'm sure some of you younger folks reading this can hardly believe the quaint antiquity of those long ago days.

But anyway, back to the weekly mail pouch. One of the things I always looked forward to was the multi-page, handwritten letters I would frequently receive from my childhood friend, Lorrie. She was such a faithful correspondent and it always made life on the road seem a little less lonely when I saw my name in her familiar handwriting.

For the first few years, I wrote her back by hand until the wonderful day came when we got a typewriter. Not a word processor or a computer mind you, but a typewriter. A manual typewriter. A machine with a returning carriage that made a "ding" sound. A machine that had no Internet connection. A machine that didn't even have to be plugged in! How quaint is that?

I was so excited when that newfangled, high tech machine appeared in our lives. Finally, my horrendous penmanship could be shelved. Finally, I could write as fast as my mind could think. Finally, my friends and family members wouldn't have to hire hieroglyphic experts in order to read my missives. It was a huge step forward for womankind!

Since we lived in an RV, there was not a lot of extra space to sit and write and so I came up with a grand idea. I took the typewriter into the bathroom, put the lid down on the toilet and sat in there with the typewriter balanced on my knees. (Sort of a precursor to the lap top!)

I was perfectly happy and contented in there--that is, until someone had to actually visit the bathroom for its originally intended use. Sigh. Didn't they know I was doing important work in there?

Okay, by this time you're no doubt wondering, "What is the purpose of this post? Is Becky getting to the age where trips down memory lane are all she has? Have all those malted milk balls she's consumed since Easter morning somehow clouded her thinking and messed with her mind? Just what is going on here?"

Okay, I'll tell you. What set off this rambling, reminiscent post is a letter I got in the mail two days ago. From Lorrie. Several pages long. Handwritten.

She and I e-mail back and forth a lot, but every once in a while she will give me the gift of her time, and stationery, and penmanship and send me a real, old fashioned letter, the kind of letter that is quickly falling by the wayside in this era of instant messaging and speedy e-mails. And seeing her handwriting, unchanged in the thirty-five years I've known her, just brought back all those memories of the road, and the Priority envelope, and the old typewriter, and the simpler lives we lived before the Internet took over.

It occured to me that getting a handwritten letter in the mail these days is a rare luxury; in fact, it's so rare that I really think that we need to have a handwritten letter revival. Just think about how you feel when you open the mailbox and amidst all the bills and advertising circulars from Pizza Hut, you see an envelope with your name penned on it? Isn't that so much more meaningful than skimming through letters in your inbox?

Pen and paper were here long before the Internet ever made its appearance; they are our "old friends" of letter writing. You can't bundle e-mails in a ribbon and store them in a special container; you can't hear the rustle of pages a decade old when you're surfing the Internet. There's just something so special about the feel of an envelope between your fingers that makes communication between friends so real and so precious.

As much as I adore computers and technology, I get a little lonely for the days of more personal communication. And so I wonder if you'd like to join me on a journey back to the lovely, old fashioned world of letter writing. Would you like to break out your pen and the box of floral stationery you haven't look at in two years and jot a note to someone special in your life?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all decided to occasionally hand write a letter, simply because we know that whoever is on the receiving end will look into their mailbox, reach in, and pull out a smile?

That's a good enough reason for me.

7 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Sue G said...

Not only do I remember the days of beautifully handwritten letters, I remember once having beautiful handwriting (although when learning penmanship, I never could get the repeating, rotating "o's" to look like a tunnel as the other kids did so effortlessly).

Alas, my penmanship--like my waist--disappeared from lack of use. I am fully committed to a keyboard of any kind. I don't even know if I could think while writing longhand anymore.

Or course, thinking comes and goes these days, too. In and out...just like going under anesthetic.

Oh, the good old days! Hard to believe that THESE are the good old days...or at least they will be in 10 or 20 years!

Thanks for the walk down memory lane, my cyber friend.

Wyatt said...

If you really want to feel dated, I was with a study group a few days ago and it was a consensus amongst the ranks that "e-mail" and "blogs" are already becoming dated technology. With sites like Facebook and services like Twitter, the younger set are looking at e-mail as a tool that should go down in history along with smoke signals, pony express, pencil and paper, and all the other collective implements that we use to share our thoughts and ideas. Are blogs and e-mail going the way of '8-track tapes' (great while they lasted)? Probably. But as long as there are folks that write, there will be folks that read, so use the tool that works best for 'your' life-element.

Pam D said...

I love getting real letters or cards in the mail. And, I've tried to convince myself that I need to SEND at least 2 or 3 a week, but "stuff" gets in the way (like, blogs..?) and it just doesn't happen. And those good old days? Are getting older faster THESE days.. from what I understand, it only takes about 5 years now for things to advance radically and render much of what was around 5 years ago practically obsolete! I remember everything you mentioned (carbon paper with the typewriter.. you didn't go into that lovely invention). I remember the first "mobile" phone I used at a remote FedEx location; the thing was practically as big as a breadbox and weighed several pounds. I also remember my first answering machine, and what a luxury it was. And having to finally get rid of my 8 track tapes because no car had an 8 track player anymore. (which is now pretty much true of cassettes.. and all of those VHS tapes are rapidly becoming relics, too!). I can only imagine what the world will be like when my boy is all grown up...

Anonymous said...

Just last night I bought my very good friend in TN a card to send in the mail (I am in IL)- we haven't see each other in two years and the computer can be so impersonal.. I hope it makes her day to get real mail from me!

Kim said...

Sigh...everything you said is so true and makes me feel so nostalgic. I remember that old typewriter I owned in college--I tell my own kids quite frequently to be grateful for the computer when they are writing school papers--no carbon paper, no messy white out, no starting over and over and over again.

I miss getting real mail. The only person who sends me real mail anymore is my 91 year old Nana Hattie. I have been trying to send her a card and note every week to make her day--at least I have a computer with email and a blog--she has nothing. She is the only living person left from her large family (parents and siblings) and from her husbands family. That means there is no one alive from her generation that would write to her. My mom doesn't because she lives so close that they see each other at least once a week. I doubt my cousins writer her-they are all boys--;), and I know my sister doesn't.
So--I am off to write her a note right now!
Love the new blog--

Nicole said...

I love the real letters as well but admit I am terrible at sending them...need to get better. My daughter is off at college and loves it when I send her one...it is just hard because we communicate so much via the internet and cell that when I do sit down to write, I don't have much to tell her. But I have promised her a letter this week! And the strapped post office would love a revival of letters I am sure...they are suffering right now.

Anonymous said...

This is the exact reason I sent a snail mail congratulations card on Sarah's recent science grade...

I too, remember the good old days when a long letter or a card came in the mail...

So it is what I do for people who need to receive message; I send a card or letter...

Like Hallmark says, (or someone said, they cared enough to send the very best) or maybe that was FTD Floral wire service...another service that probably is no more...