“This I Believe”
I believe in the 41 cent stamp. I may pay my bills on-line, e-mail my colleagues hourly, text-message for take-out Chinese food and call my husband’s cell phone from the grocery store, but when it comes to serious communication, I believe in real letters.
My revered 3rd grade teacher who read us Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, who changed her appellation from Sister Nicholas to Sister Ann about the same time we were singing “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” along with the crackly transistor radio in the basket of my Schwinn ten-speed bike, oh, Sister Ann would be proud to see my cursive handwriting adorning the envelope and telling tales out of school, lo these 30-something years later.
I believe that snail mail, as we rat-racers have derisively taken to calling it, has the power to reveal thoughts normally unsaid and oft-times even unformed. Credit Mrs. Gress, another powerhouse of an elementary school teacher, this time, my sixth grade year, for sowing the seed of letter-writing in me at the tender age of eleven. At a time when I had traveled only as far as my parents’ Chevy Impala could drive on a tank of leaded gasoline, Mrs. Gress handed out the names and addresses of other students, thousands of miles away, and informed us with zeal that we would be linked as Bicentennial Pen Friends. Enter Laurie. I zipped the 8 blocks home that afternoon and by 3:15 had my own letter written. The bond was begun. We had two brothers each, and we were sandwiched between them; we loved our family dogs and only tolerated math class; she lived in a ranch-style house like I did and perhaps also yearned for the drama of stomping up the stairs every once in while.
This I believe: that through reams of junk mail and mountains of bills, through frolics of grade school and intensity of high school, through exploration of college and focus of graduate school, through pain of jilted romance, through joy of marriage, career and motherhood, through agony of nursing an ailing father, finding a letter from an old friend is an elixir. Writing one is a therapy. Laurie, my cherished pen-pal, once revealed our relationship best: “You can say a lot in a letter that you couldn’t ever say out loud. We have history. Sue knows me better than most people because of it.”
Anonymity. Intimacy. This I believe: even if the Post Office charged dollars for first-class stamps, Laurie’s is the only kind of mail that’s really worthwhile to receive. A birthday card from a brother, a party invitation with a genuine RSVP, a birth announcement, a wedding invitation; each imparts a thrill when I pluck it from among the flotsam and jetsam of the mailbox’s usual fare. I believe in the longing of souls to connect and to know each other. I believe 41 cents times 6 letters a year times 31 years is $76.26 is a bargain.
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