A Lost Art
….In reading a recent article in the USA Today newspaper, it recounts that with the advancement of technology, especially that of the computer and the wide use of email and texting, correspondence sent by way of the post office has fallen to all-time lows. According to the same article, only roughly .7% of mail received via the post office is made up of personal letters. The wide majority (22%) of post office usage is from some form of advertising, in the form of fliers, brochures, and circulars, etc. Roughly 13% of received ‘mail’ are billing statements of one type or another. I found it interesting that only a measly 1% of mail is made up of payments—which means the wide majority of people are paying their bills online, paying by phone or paying in person. And with texting, and the various abbreviations people use to get their message across as succinctly and concisely as possible, our entire written language has been undergoing further evolution (further deterioration, according to many people) over the past few years.
….I well remember my Mom waiting all morning for when the mailman would drive his little white truck with blue logo up our cul-de-sac and stop at the bank of mailboxes, distributing a bundle to each box. It was the highlight of Mom’s day, as she trundled up the driveway to the mailbox to see what had been deposited for her that day. Most were pleas for some contribution to some charitable organization, a few bills, financial statements, or the occasional magazine. But Mom loved that little trek to the mailbox. I still make the daily trip into town, about 12 miles from our home, to collect the mail at the post office box, even though most pieces are the inevitable bill amongst the plethora of travel brochures I receive near daily. Far and few between are the personal letters received.
….One of the many wonderful qualities Mom had was her dedication in sending personal handwritten letters and birthday cards with a personal message to friends and family. It’s another endeavor that unfortunately seems to be slipping away with our current fascination and obsession to text, tweet, and email.
….My former mother-in-law was the post-mistress in the little township of Fountain Green, Utah for many years. Much like the Sunrunner post office nestled between Jolly Mon and the Ranch Market and Deli, it was a central social hub, not only to post or pick up mail, but also as a social meeting place for residents to catch up with one another. With the advent of computers and the proliferation of email, she was constantly reminding the residents of her tiny hamlet they needed to use the post office frequently, or it would be a lost privilege for their use.
….What is it about the written word, that personal communication from one person to another, that fascinates us, pulls us into its web? We may not do much writing ourselves, but we certainly do look forward to someone else’s to us!
….Letter writing seems to be nearly a lost art now. And I’m sad to see it go by the wayside. I wasn’t always a word purveyor—as a child, I used to reluctantly sit down after Christmas or a birthday and with parental prodding, write out those obligatory ‘thank you notes’. I well remember my godmother, Marian, pointedly saying that an endorsement on the back of a check does NOT constitute a ‘thank you note’! The gift ‘thank you note’ is probably the most maligned piece of correspondence! It may not be “Emily Post” etiquette, but I think I’d still prefer a simple email acknowledgement of a gift or action, over NOT hearing from the recipient at all.
….Ah, that personal letter, where oh where have they gone? During my childhood, I had several ‘pen pals’ who I corresponded with, and for years we exchanged letters as we got to know each other. One such pen pal lived in a small fishing village—much like San Felipe—way above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Mail traveled by ship, and it took nearly two months for one of her letters to reach me, and another two months for mine to reach her. From the age of twelve to when we both entered college, we faithfully wrote back and forth to each other as we shared our lives and customs. Sadly, when we each entered college, after several moves we lost track of each other. I’ve tried several times via the mighty Internet to try to locate her, but thus far to no avail.
….I haven’t always been a purveyor of words. Truthfully, writing was my worst subject in grade school. I credit my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Van Buren, for insisting that we write weekly compositions on a variety of subjects. She diligently read each composition, made corrections and suggestions in red ink, and over the course of the year, my writing improved markedly. Contrast Mrs. Van Buren with my daughter’s 4th grade teacher who insisted her students print or type any homework compositions, apparently so that it was more convenient for HER to read their often undecipherable handwriting. She missed the entire point of the writing exercise! I will admit it–I write much faster using the computer nowadays than by hand writing an epistle, and more than one of my bosses has criticized my handwritten scrawl, wondering what in the world I was trying to communicate to him! But writing has often been my confidante, its been cathartic, an outlet. And it has brought me friendship, love and companionship over the years as well.
….When Dan and I were ‘courting’—he in Massachusetts and me in California—we wrote to each other via the computer nearly every day. His notes were much shorter than mine, and that was fine, I know I get pretty wordy at times. But my point is, we were 3,000 miles apart. Where our phone calls to each other were often, our written correspondence was plentiful and I loved it! I woke up each morning happy for a new day, quickly turned on my computer and couldn’t wait to see what wonderful words Dan had written to me. Words of love and caring, plans for a future together, reminisces of the cruise on which we had met, and how wonderful it had been to waltz across the dance floor together. It does sound awfully romantic, doesn’t it! Two single people aboard a cruise ship to exotic places, never having met before—meeting on the dance floor, as we waltzed and fox trotted together night after night. Sharing flirtatious looks, a few stolen kisses. At the time, it seemed so improbable. Whoever would have thought this shipboard flirtation would actually go from improbable to possible, probable to doable! And it was the written word—only after the cruise was a memory and the souvenir photographs were in the album—that actually brought our relationship to reality.
….Unfortunately, the written word today reads more like “C U at hm, pls pk up kds b4 6” followed by some symbol such as :) or J. We have become an abbreviated society. We tend to acronym everything. “I heart you” is supposed to be a serious substitute for “My darling, you are the light of my life, my love for you burns deep within me.” Frankly, I would far prefer the latter over the former, even if it may sound like a cliché. Can you imagine what a modern day Shakespeare would write for a sonnet! We seem to be embarrassed to show any true and deep emotion even to the ones closest to us—whether uttered verbally or by the written word. I fear the art of writing our thoughts and feelings on paper, whether handwritten or by computer, is becoming a lost art—and I, for one, mourn its loss.