I believe in writing letters.
Sometimes I think about that day which is not here yet, and I hope it won’t be for a long, long time – the day I receive the last letter from my mother. My mother and I still write letters and send them to each other in the mail. Letter-writing: it sounds exotic.
Is there anything better to receive in the mail than a personal letter? A check, maybe – but only if it’s for A LOT of money! But I don’t mean that, because no check can bring me my mother’s voice from 600 miles away like a letter can.
My mother’s letters let me hear her voice over and over again, differently than the phone, where you have to respond immediately and have no time, when it rings, to take a few minutes and reflect on what’s happened in your own life in the past week or two. When I open the mailbox at my condo and see a letter from my mother, I take it upstairs, tear it open in the kitchen so far away from her, read it, and then put it aside to read again after a day or two. You can’t do that with a phone call.
I used to write letters to my sisters as well as my mother, but those habitual letters have long since given way to e-mail and the phone. Also years ago, my father would write notes in the margin of my mother’s letters, rather than write his own — but those notes were more than enough. You had a glimpse into my parents’ daily conversations – the give and take and gentle teasing my Dad could do so well. You saw their different approaches to life – my mom’s idealistic streak and optimism, my dad’s cynicism and sarcastic side – but you knew, looking at the letter and those notes in the margin, that it (their relationship) worked. Now, as I write “worked” I realize it was so far beyond that – their relationship thrived because my Mom encouraged those marginal notations and my Dad was happy to be asked to provide them. My Dad is still here, but the notations are not, and it’s just one more sign that he’s gradually slipping away from us.
In this digital age, we’ve gained a lot, but we’ve also lost a lot. We’ve lost the habit of communicating with those we love after some moments of reflection. We’ve lost sorting through the events of our own lives and deciding what is interesting and important to communicate. In an age of instantaneous communication, I cherish the value of what is not instantaneous.
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