The Art of Letter Writing

What do letters mean to you? They’ve always been the connection that I had to friends and family who lived far away. And, let’s face it, when you live in Anchorage, Alaska, everyone and everything feels quite far away.  My first pen pal was my Grandpa Woody. He was my cowboy grandpa who would come up for a visit every November to spend Thanksgiving with us, most years. I would look forward to my monthly and holiday letters. I loved his spring time letters too. He would write to me in his fashionable cursive handwriting that I would decipher slowly, being the emerging reader that I was. I can vividly remember opening a letter one spring, probably in late March or early April and tucked inside was a furry gray pussy willow bud that he had gathered from a tree outside of his house. The opening of that letter has stuck with me to this day. His letters are now bundled together with a ribbon alongside my sister’s letters for safe keeping.

My second pen pal was my sister. She was ten years older than me and left home for college shortly before her eighteenth birthday. I vividly remember the day she left.  The leaves clung to the branches with a foreboding coldness, brilliant maroon, yellow, and brown hanging by thin invisible threads, similar to how my heart felt when she drove away in dad’s pickup.

She would write to me weekly, send me updates on all the happenings in the lower forty eight, the seasons, the sounds, and the adventures she took. Some of my favorite letters were enclosed with photographs of her adventures or cartoon drawings she created to entertain her tiny sibling. I loved it all. I would mail her cards and drawings, long letters that mom and dad helped me spell out letter by letter. When you’re a dyslexic writer of seven, things take a little bit longer to complete. One Hannukah I received a tape recorder box with a giant speaker and microphone. I recorded a sung letter to Debbie that ended with a rousing rendition of, “Puff The Magic Dragon.” I’m sure the tape is long gone, but I know she remembered that particular letter/package and the enclosed demo. Ha! Who knew that all these years later I would pull out the letters of the past and read her words to hear her voice again. Her letters bring me comfort and make me laugh aloud even now.

The most indelible thing about a letter is that you know the person who wrote it for you, held it, cared enough to write it, and mailed it with love. It always felt like such a gift to receive a letter from someone in the mail.  I want my son to know what that feels like as both the sender and the receiver. So, letters we write together, each season and each holiday. I think it’s important to take time to think about those in your life that you care about and pause enough to reflect upon that and give them a token of your heart.

I had the idea to begin a blog this past fall, to mark the passing of time in a daily way, that perhaps our son could look back upon one day. I decided to use the voice of our beloved dog Kimmy to narrate our daily adventures together. In a way I feel like I am giving him a small piece of what I have in the letters I have kept and cherished throughout the years from family members.

What else can we draw from as humans except knowing that the passage of time is marked in human history through the written word. So I leave you with this thought: think about the last time you wrote a letter, and why. Now, who could you write to today and thank, make laugh, or draw a smile from when they open their mail box and see it waiting for them?

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Spring Thoughts for 2020.