I have recently taken to writing letters to friends and family. It really is a cheery thing to do for both sender and recipient. There’s something joyful about a handwritten envelope plopping onto the mat in an amongst the detritus of flyers and circulars. Most bills tend to be paperless nowadays. It is a welcome treat usually reserved for occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. With the prevalence of email, social media and messages, even these are significantly reduced. A letter is not only a vehicle for hearing someone’s voice but a thing to be treasured and revisited.
Postcards also seem to be a thing of the past. I can recall the delight of receiving cards displaying golden sands and the dubious saucy seaside postcards, with their ‘double entendre’s’ sailing over my innocent, young head, causing much mirth and embarrassment in equal measure.
The pandemic has meant a return of sending cards “just to say…” but a letter can be so much more personal. An opportunity to talk about what’s going on, ask questions and connect.
I have included quizzes in my letters to grandchildren focusing on the family, ‘loves and loathes,’ which have been really well received and reached a surprisingly competitive level, resulting in leader boards. The fusion of old versus new in the form of facetime for answers has led to much hilarity and dispute about what is “correct.” It has also served as an avenue for family anecdotes, sharing memories and reflection on those no longer with us in a celebratory way.
During childhood the thrill of receiving a blue envelope emblazoned with “Par Avion” containing almost see through, delicate blue writing paper was second to none. Pen pals were commonplace and often organised through school. I delighted in correspondence with a girl from Provence, both cackhandedly attempting to relay information about our lives in the other’s mother tongue.
It’s easy to forget that let alone the absence of mobile phones, landlines were an extravagance, one which my grandparents never saw the need for. Weekly letters were exchanged updating my grandfather of my news. Admittedly the letters to my mum from him tended to read like a weekly obituary column. Prior to the pandemic schoolchildren were encouraged to write to older people residing in care homes which to me is a gift for all involved. Conversing with someone who has a raft of stories is an authentic living history lesson and brings validation to lived experiences. Win, win.
In the absence of letter writing, journaling is widely accepted as being beneficial for improving mental and emotional health. This being the case sharing thoughts and feelings with people of trust can only be helpful. There is also the added motivation of the anticipation of a response and it ticking the box of social connection.
The challenge I have encountered when handwriting letters is on one hand ensuring my giant sprawling handwriting is legible but equally realising how much I rely on emoji’s at the end of a sentence. (Hands over eyes and laughy face.) Stickers, Gif’s and emoji’s are an instant response or reaction to someone and acknowledge what they are saying but imagine the value of a letter. It doesn’t matter if the moment or issue has passed the sentiment is there and greater.
Random acts of kindness in the form of thoughtful gifts being posted out has multiplied but a personalised note letting someone know you are thinking of them is cheaper yet can have just as much meaning and worth.