Friday, March 9, 2012

the (lost?) art of letter writing

My husband's grandmother recently received an exciting visit from her Australian pen pal of over sixty years. They began writing when she was just twenty-two, even before marrying her husband, my husband’s grandfather. Her pen pal was only fourteen when she received the first piece of mail from a woman half the world away. 

They connected through a Lutheran Bible League and have been corresponding ever since, sharing the hills and valleys of their lives through words. At first they wrote postcards and letters, sharing the news of engagements, marriage, babies, jobs, and the many other details of life. Then when the Internet took over the world they adopted email and have been exchanging tidbits via the World Wide Web ever since.

My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting his grandmother’s pen pal and spent a delightful evening with the two of them. At home later that night, thinking about this lovely Australian woman with her rich accent and stories of Christmas in summer and regular trips to New Zealand, I felt a pang of longing for a pen pal of my own. 

I have always loved receiving and sending snail mail. I love writing letters. When I studied in Italy for a semester, my husband and I wrote letters regularly, as well as emails. When he went to work at Glacier National Park in Montana the summer following my Italian adventure, we continued to write letters—long, wordy, wonderful letters. They were full of the details of daily life, the little jokes we’d developed that kept us feeling close, like we weren’t thousands of miles apart. Although I missed him horribly, I cherish the distance and time we spent apart because I now have a record of that chapter in our lives. We preserved bits and pieces of our early relationship without knowing it at the time. I love those letters. They are tucked away in a shoebox on the shelf of my closet. I read them every now and again and smile.

There is something incredibly magical about sharing one’s life through letters. It requires time, thought, postage, and patience. In a world of texting and Facebook wall posts, the art of letter writing is quickly disappearing. I pray it survives, in one way or another. 

What a blessing for my husband’s grandmother, to have a friend for over sixty years who is so dear to her heart, even if she lives thousands of miles away. It just proves that friendships can be built and survive on the written word. And that is reason enough to me to keep writing letters!

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