That real letter on real actual paper, dropped into a mailbox over a thousand miles away and having traveled halfway across the country in trucks and planes from my cousin to me, did more than make me smile. It made my whole day.
A letter beats an email by a mile, I think. Oh, email is fine, it’s a great way to communicate, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against it, as it keeps us close together for a quick hello or note, gets our information quickly where it needs to be, or to share photos- when it’s better to send a.s.a.p., that is.
I can remember the day I got my first email account way back in ’96 or so (and I’ve been checking it obsessively ever since) and thinking, “Wow, this will be handy.” And it certainly has been. In fact, I don’t think I would be able to function without it nowadays. Work documents can be sent in the blink of an eye as attachments, where just 15 years ago the preferred way to send would have been in a fortified envelope, hoping for no tears along the way, with “Do Not Bend!” written desperately all over the mailer.
I have even heard of email saving lives, or text messages from phones to a computer helping rescuers find someone trapped or lost. So it’s a very good thing we have instant communication. I wouldn’t care to give it up.
My kids grew up in this digital era. Email and instant messaging are second nature to them. They are members of online clubs. They can vlog, Google, tweet, and tumble with the best of ‘em. They are virtual acrobats.
But I grew up in the world of letters, long before email. I’m from the generation when a piece of mail from a friend far away was long-awaited and much-treasured, covered in magic marker doodles and shimmering stickers, filled with secrets, wishes, and gossip about boys. Even letters from my Grandmas were treasures, as they brought me news of the family doings from down south, clipped newspaper articles, sometimes even a dollar or two, if it was my birthday.
A letter just can’t be beat, even now. One from a friend, and most especially decorated with loopy ink-pen writing, Sharpie marker doodles, hearts and stars, is still the best in my book. And yes, my cousin – who I’ve discovered with my own googling skills is exactly 1,028 miles away - and I still decorate our letters. That joy of finding something in the mailbox, other than your run-of-the-mill phone bill or flier, is a perfect and rare delight that I don’t intend to lose. Send me an email anytime, that’s fine. But send me a letter and I smile all day!