Saturday, June 11, 2011

The First Letter

Yes, I said pen in hand...for me I need a pad of paper, a pen and a comfy place to write. Oh, and a glass of wine helps to lubricate the process! Preferably a quiet place I can be undisturbed and let my thoughts roam over the things I want to say and share with my reader. Years ago you could find out a lot about people by reading their letters.

Many biographies would never have been written without the letters that were written to and from the subject. I learned a lot about my Mother after she died by reading her letters and diaries. I read the letters my father wrote to her when he was away for long periods...they were passionately in love and his letters reflected the love and the regard he had for her.

I have letters written to my Mother from a beau during WWII, he was stationed in Europe. I reread them from time to time just to have that link with a very significant period in our history. I have a copy of my Great-Grandfather's Civil War diary. There are a lot of letters in it; some from G-Grandpa to G-Grandma and some from his comrades in arms to their loved ones. Paper was a prized possession and scarce during the Civil War in the field. When I read all these different letters I am there; sharing their experiences; their fears, hopes, sadness and joy.

What of our children and grandchildren? Will they ever know these intimate looks into their ancestors everyday lives? I fear not. Everyday people like myself don't keep emails like my mother kept letters (tied with pink ribbon) and besides you can't hold an email like you can the paper that your mother held when she was pouring out her thoughts....It just isn't the same.

Letters and diaries provide a connection with our past and our loved ones that just cannot be replaced with email or texting or twittering. The nuances in letters don't show up in emails or text messages; the firmness, or lack thereof, in the hand that wrote the words. The tear stains on the page, the smear of jelly or chocolate or spilled wine in the margin...none of these will be discerned from an email.

How the writer was feeling is easier to discern when you look at their handwriting on the paper; does it slope up or down or not at all?

Did they press harder with their pen on the passages where they talk about an argument they had?

Did they draw little pictures or add hearts or teardrops to a line?

Did they seem to be writing fast, their thoughts tumbling onto the paper quickly; or slowly and thoughtfully making sure they choose just the right word to describe what they're feeling?

Does their writing show their excitement and passion when they think of you and see your face in their memory?

These questions can frequently be answered just by looking at the letter...and who ever heard of spraying your perfume on an email so your lover will get a powerful reminder of you the moment he holds the envelope in his hands?

So I will be writing letters to people. I will write them on paper tucked up in bed, curled up in the window seat or laying on the floor with a pillow under me while I listen to music or watch TV. Then I'll transcribe them here because the only way for me to write a meaningful letter is to hold that pen in my hand and let my thoughts flow through it onto the paper.