I love letters. I love the penmanship and I love reading them and hearing the words in the voice of the person that wrote them. The few letters I have from my mother are magical to me. I read them and hear the tenor and inflections of her voice. I sometimes think I have forgotten how she sounded, but reading her words opens a synapse in my brain that allows it to all come flooding back.
Old Letters Are The Best
I recently came into some papers that belonged to my Aunt. I am not sure she ever threw anything away and while some could criticize her for that, I would never. Amongst these papers were notebooks of handwritten letters from my Grandmother to my Aunt.
My Grandmother was the family news conductor and her letters were always full of family news. She always filled you in on who got married, who was sick, what crops were planted and how many jars of jelly or green beans were ‘put away’.
In addition to letters from my Grandmother, were letters from my Uncles to their sister written during the war. I took the time to read the letters and decided they should go to my cousins so they could have a glimpse of their father’s life before they were born. I felt so good about mailing those letters and know how much they will mean to them.
I also cherish the penmanship and the flourish of words from a different time. As a child I was obsessed with the way a lower case ‘r’ was written — they looked much like an ‘n’. I loved it so much I started to use my newfound love of the letter ‘r’ in my school work much to my teacher’s chagrin.
Why Don’t We Write Letters?
I belong to a ‘snail mail’ group and have belonged to similar groups in the past. The current group started with a bang then drifted off to a small trickle of mail. This kind of mail is fun, but it is not like the old time letters from home.
Letters were once the only way to share news and updates with family and friends once people started drifting away from a central home place or when they went off to join the military. They waited weeks or months for news from loved ones when there was no other way to stay in touch.
I was fortunate enough to get a copy of a letter from my 3X Great Grandmother. It was such a great slice of history from the time. To hear about the hardships they endured and the sadness and loneliness that set in when children started moving away from home was heart wrenching. It told the news of children born and children who had passed away. It is one of my greatest treasures.
I am contemplating scanning all the letters from my Grandmother to my Aunt and then donating the original letters to a historical museum. There is so much history there that generations to come would love to read about. But parting with them, well, that’s a hard decision.
Email Vs. Letters
There is something rather impersonal about an Email. There is no way to add enough underlines to the phrase ‘I love you’. You don’t see the words on the screen and recognize the font and know who it is from like you do handwriting.
A Lost Art
Maybe I’m just overly nostalgic, but I care about the loss of this art. It is sad to me that so many schools do not teach cursive any longer. It is becoming a lost art. I will never forget when I was teaching and wrote in cursive on the blackboard. I was shocked when my students could not read what I had written.
My Grandfather could not write anything but his name. I remember watching him practice writing his signature over and over on the backs of envelopes. When I started my genealogical research I found his ‘Old Man’s Draft Card’. My heart skipped a beat. There it was — my Grandfather’s well-practiced signature. I was overcome.
Those seven letters in that familiar script meant everything to me.
“The act of writing itself is like an act of love. There is contact. There is exchange too. We no longer know whether the words come out of the ink onto the page, or whether they emerge from the page itself where they were sleeping,
the ink merely giving them colour.”
12 thoughts on “Letters From Home”
Maggie, what a lovely post. I miss letters, too; your family has treasures with the correspondence of yours.
I’ve kept a few – but not that many. I gently recycled almost all of the old letters that I had kept, after re-reading a few of them. There wasn’t any historical value or really family value, either, in my case.
So glad that you have those connections.
Thank you for your comments, Lisa. I love the connection and ‘hearing’ the voices that have long faded away. My cousins recently found ‘love letters’ my grandfather wrote my grandmother before they married. And I have ‘love letters’ my Dad wrote my Mother. So touching.
I miss this so much, too…I love reading old letters…. Especially old family letters.. When did we get so busy that we can no longer take the time to drop a note here and there? More importantly.. why did we let ourselves get this busy?
Remember when you, Jill and I swore we would write when we moved to NC? 🤗 I think we just do not take time. Granny wrote all of us frequently. She really kept the sense of family in all our hearts.
Re: Letters From Home
I miss the handwriting styles of the handwritten letters… The time it takes to appreciate other in the written form is at times lost.
I still write letters as I think it conveys a personal side to of the writer to it’s intended recipient.
Beautiful memories of your Mums and families letters… thank you for sharing
Thanks, Tanya. I am glad you still write. I used to write a lot, but even for me that time has faded away. Keep it up and say the important things. 💕 They will be appreciated in the years to come.
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Maggie Your words haven’t faded away … not completely.. and I am proof that it is never to late to pick up a pen and begin again
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I miss writing letters .. the last letter I wrote was to my uncle saying goodbye before he passed. I use to get letters from grams and my cousin Laurinda. Everyone that use to write to me has passed and it makes me very sad.
I use to have a pen pal from amsterdam. the stamps were very interesting as was the life there.
you are so right about the script writing grams had such a elegant look. She used a ruler to write and a very light pencil. then came the fountain pen. to this day I will never know how she never ended up with ink on her hands and shirt! I always did lol
Julia, what lovely memories. I cherish letters and they are few and far between now. Yes, the passing of our generation of letter writers is sad, but what a wonderful legacy they left us. I am amazed at how many hours my grandmother must have spent writing — and she wrote us all. Children and grandchildren alike. What a blessing we received. ❤️
Unfortunately, I have no surviving letters from any of my family. But when one of my close friends died some years ago, his son sent me a thick file of letters I had sent to his father for a period of over 20 years. It felt so strange to read my own letters, I had to put them away again. I think it will be some time before I can face reading how I wrote about my own life to someone so close.
Best wishes, Pete.
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I had a similar situation with my aunt. Letters I had written in the early part of a hopeful marriage before it all went so terribly wrong. I shredded the letters. The hope was gone so the letters should be gone as well.
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