Somewhere in my office sits the very first love letter that I ever wrote. It was second grade, the girl’s name was Brenna, and I wrote it on that ugly grey / blue newsprint that we all used for cursive – you know that style of writing they used to teach. I had written the classic “Do you like me?” message with two boxes, labeled “yes” and “no.” Brenna checked yes, handed it back to me, and remained my girlfriend through the end of elementary school – you know, the relationship where you don’t talk because you don’t have anything to say, don’t look at each other because you’d turn red, and don’t hold hands because you might get cooties. That letter holds a lot of importance to me because it was the first time that I really remember writing words that actually meant something to me. I liked her, and she checked “yes.”
The day of the letter has become fairly obsolete, and while communication has become much faster, it is far less personal. I’d be hard pressed to believe that many children write letters to their grandparents, or that pen pals get anything handwritten. Hell, even the letters that are sent to the children in Africa with the $0.48 are probably done through email and Paypal. Little Abayomi will never know what your handwriting looks like, but he probably can’t read English, and probably never gets the money, and probably doesn’t really exist, but regardless of all of that, he still doesn’t get a handwritten letter.
When I was a little kid, my dad and I realized quickly that we both had the same stubborn temper, and that talking out arguments wasn’t always going to work, so we chose to write to each other. I placed a small mailbox outside my bedroom door, and whenever I was done writing to him, I would place the letter in the box, and put up the little red flag. When he was done reading and responding, he would deposit the letter, and so on and so forth. It was how I really learned to write about conflict, and how I began to understand how to think about my writing as something that could change a situation – essentially, it was the first time I realized that words had power.
I’m leaving on a three-week solo acoustic tour this morning, and one of my friends has asked me to keep in touch via actual postal mail. I can’t remember the last time that I did something like that, but I accepted the challenge, and I look forward to sending postcards from as many stops as possible. It’s simple right? We shall see.
This brings me to the Question(s) of the Day:
What are the first letters you remember writing? How many of them do you still have? What did they mean to you? When was the last time you actually mailed a handwritten letter?