Letters from Yesterday, a Note for Tomorrow

In the recesses of my closet sits an old Birkenstock shoe box full of letters: updates from a best friend, love letters from my husband-to-be, simple notes from my dad–one note addressed to “OK Slave” that must have been sent during those years I attended the University of Oklahoma. (I dared to leave the state of Texas. It did not go unnoticed.)

These letters are precious, sometimes more so than photos, because they go beyond a snapshot in time. From handwritten script, a personality is revealed, an intimacy declared, a relationship honored in the time spent to find the paper, choose the pen, seal the envelope, and post the stamp.

I still write letters, though not half as often as I used to. I have fallen into the digital tailspin and gone lazy with text messages, emails, and Facebook posts. But certain situations call for old-fashioned correspondence. A new friend of an older generation doesn’t use email; a family member has gone off the digital grid for a time; a box of good stationary holds irresistible appeal. I sit down. I choose the pen. I start with the date. It is morning, I say, or afternoon. I am on break between work and kids. And I fill the page with nonsense or goodness or maybe too much. Give a writer a pen and she won’t stop talking. But Alena Hall (in “9 Reasons Not to Abandon the Art of the Handwritten Letter”) explains why such correspondence is critical:

Long after [letters] are written and sent (and even after their senders and receivers are gone), letters and postcards remain to be read, appreciated and preserved. Whether displayed on museum shelves honoring famous historical figures or saved in a scrapbook between two old friends, letters protect the memories of lives lived in a way that technological communication cannot.

Even the memories of daily minutiae become treasured down the line.

Those tiny notes from my Dad? They often ended with the same message:

Thanks for your card. It was perfect timing, a good note for a bad day.

Email is quickly lost in an inbox full of business and promos and calendar invites. A letter, though, when placed in a box on the top shelf of a closet is easily found. Instantly remembered. Read and re-read. And forever held dear.

Spread some love. #SendALetter.


About Christi Craig

Christi Craig is a native Texan living in Wisconsin, working by day as a sign language interpreter and moonlighting as a writer, teacher, and editor. Her stories and essays have appeared online and in print, and she received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Family Matters Contest, 2010. You can send comments or questions via her contact page.
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3 Responses to Letters from Yesterday, a Note for Tomorrow

  1. Elaine says:

    This is so true. I have few regrets in my life but one is that I threw away two shoe boxes full of letters from friends and lovers in a fit of purging. I had it in my head that I never wanted my children to see some of them. But they were meant for me, not them, and now I no longer have the pleasure of remembering those time and feelings.

  2. Susan M. says:

    Just found this buried in my inbox . . . Sorting and winnowing e-mail is tedious but when I skip it, gems like this get lost.

    I love to put ink on paper. On the rare occasions when I do hand write letters – sadly, often for notes of sympathy – I use Micron drawing pens which have archival ink, and creamy Crane’s kid finish stationery. I stocked up on it years ago and have hardly made a dent in my supply. Time to use it more often, and not just when someone dies.

    What am I saving it for?

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