Amid Pandemic, Take Pen in Hand
I can’t recall the last time I wrote or received a handwritten letter - but it’s time to send such letters again.
The reasons why the handwritten letter died are obvious: e-mail, text messaging and cellphones. With how quick those innovations make whipping off a note, why would anybody take an hour to hand-write one?
But how much better off might we be if we started sending such letters again?
I've kept every handwritten letter I ever got, in boxes in my attic. One Saturday in 2000, when I was moving from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., organizing and storing stuff soured my mood.
Until I stumbled upon a handwritten letter I’d received in 1985.
It was from a fellow I'd gone to Penn State with, who’d become an editor in Bangor, Maine. As I read it that Saturday in 2000, it took me back 15 years - to exactly who I was at age 24. I laughed out loud reading it.
I also found a stack of pink envelopes from two ladies, Bonnie and Tracey, who attended the same college as my friend Griff. An anonymous letter he had them send me during our freshman year in 1980 led to a robust correspondence, and I dated Bonnie for a spell after we graduated. Rereading those letters that Saturday in 2000, I laughed so hard that tears tumbled down my face.
The handwritten letter is personal and deeply satisfying in ways that electronic communication will never be. Email, no matter how well crafted, simply isn’t memorable.
Consider a letter my grandfather handwrote on Nov. 28, 1928.
With great eloquence, he consoled his best friend’s wife on the loss of her mother. He wrote that letter when he was 25 - nine years before my father’s birth. My grandfather died when my father was only 3. That letter is among the most cherished items I have from a grandfather I never got to meet.