Monday, April 27, 2009

Letters from Home

Older Son moved out a few weeks ago (which is a whole other emotional story for another time). His move is a rather gradual one and his room still holds plenty of reminders of his presence.

He's only about 20 minutes away and of course he works in his mother's business so we still see him plenty.

Among the relics he found under his bed when he was cleaning things out was a package of letters he received when he went to camp for the first time in 1997 when he was 11 years old.

The letters are a walk down memory lane. There are plenty from his mom and me that gave daily recitations of events at home and testimonies of how much we missed him. There were several from his grandparents including one from my dad, now deceased, that he wrote on his old manual typewriter on stationery he had lifted from a Las Vegas hotel he had recently visited (my dad was way beyond thrifty and never wasted anything). There is a detailed narrative about the day's golf game and a partner who hit a nearby pedestrian with a ball. Hilarious.

My mother had been gone less than a year then and the letter included a poignantly honest portion about occasional loneliness. He hoped his grandson might visit him later in the summer to ease that a bit. Golf games and fishing trips were promised.

The letters reminded me that, sadly, computers and technology -- as wonderful as they are -- have robbed us of some of life's greatest pleasures, one of which is the handwritten (or even typewriter-written, for that matter) letter. It is just too easy to log on, type a few lines and, with the click of a mouse, presto, I've written you a note.

To be sure, e-mails are great, and one cannot argue with the convenience and speed. Still, there is nothing quite like holding in your hand a letter or note that someone has taken the time to write. And I can remember the thrill of going to a mailbox and finding one of those. In college it was a daily highlight to go to the post office. Somehow, something came through in a letter that, for whatever reason, gets left out on the computer screen.

When I was cleaning out my mom's and dad's things after Dad died in 2006, I found the letters he wrote to my mother when he was serving in the military, just months before coming home to marry her in 1946. Mom had saved them in a big package with a big ribbon around them and kept them in her cedar chest. They are, needless to say, priceless.

I still have many of the letters my parents wrote me when I was in college, law school and working a summer job in the mountains. Even then, Dad used the old trusty manual typewriter and there were plenty of errors. He was also spelling-challenged which still make those letters that much more funny to read.

Life moves on and we progress. But I sure miss those letters from home.


Pam said...

This spoke to me, Bob. I still have letters that my dad wrote various family members when he was overseas.

One of the agonies and regrets of my life are the packet of letters my dad wrote to me when he was overseas and had yet to meet me. I lost them as a teenager.

Little did I know how precious they were and would always be. That loss by a careless teen who thought people lived forever proves to be one of the only true regrets of my life.

Hal Johnson said...

Great post, Bob. I agree, there is something about getting a letter in the mail that seems more meaningful than an email. That's true even if the letters are typewritten, as you mentioned.

That's good, because I'd just about rather take a beating than write a letter longhand.

Debby said...

There are three people that I write to. They do not have computers. They write letters back. It is lovely to receive letters.

Kelly said...

I use to love to write letters and still occasionally put pen to paper. I do write thank you notes by hand without fail.

I haven't been good about writing my daughter at college (or my son, but he's close by), but I do try to mail her stuff at least once a week - comics, articles from magazines or the newspaper, etc. It all comes down to that thrill of getting something in your mailbox!

Glad you recognize the treasures for what they are. Hang on to those letters for him. He'll be glad you did!

quid said...

I have never saved letters, and am poorer for their loss.


Steve H. said...


I have a number of letters from the 80's and '90s that I have kept and I agree that something has been lost in the move to cyberspace. I used to look forward to the mail, it will just be a bill or a credit card application. :)

I would gladly ditch the whole computer thing...but since nobody else is going to..bad grammer is here to stay.

Bob said...

Steve, computers have given more than they have taken (e.g. what we're doing right now) but I do miss the letters.

Kelly, my children have each have stationery to write thank-you notes. Older Son and Daughter now do it without prodding. Younger Son is getting there.