Dear friends and blog readers,
Today, I’m going to give you a little glimpse into one of the many, many reasons why I write. Usually, when I’m in the classroom or talking in public about writing, I tell the story that I remember best: how my Dad taught me at a very young age to love my imagination and storytelling and how that shaped who I grew up to be. But there’s another story buried in my history that I usually don’t tell, because it’s not so much a story as it is a habit, or perhaps even a way of living.
That story is about letters.
Take a look in a box tucked away under the bed of my fairy-tale inspired guest room, and you’ll find piles and piles of letters and cards. Some date back to when I was so little, I couldn’t read them myself. And yes, those from the way way back are mostly birthday cards and holiday greetings. But not all of them. And as I grew older, they became long, beautiful letters and short, funny postcards from my relatives.
If you keep digging, you’ll find a slew of postcards from my truck driver grandfather mixed in with pre-teen handwriting from my camp friends, when email was just not allowed for small children and so we became legit pen pals throughout the school year. There are letters in there that I received at camp, too, from my parents and even my teensy little sister. Once I entered secondary grades, I started getting notes that were passed around in class, and I kept a few of those, too.
Now, I get a wide assortment of letters and paper communications, from wedding invitations and baby announcements to long-winded letters from old college friends. Or, in the case of my most recent piece of mail, absolutely fabulous holiday cards that have no business making me laugh as hard as they do. I love them all.
What you won’t find in that box are the letters that I’ve written. I can’t say for sure if the box of my out-going mail would be larger or smaller, but I can say that it would be pretty close in size, either way. For every card I received, there was one preceding it or responding to it…sometimes both. Partly due to the manners I learned very young (thanks, Grami): first, that thank you notes are the bare minimum expected of young ladies and gentlemen, and second, that when you respect and care for someone, you should mark important occasions with a card.
If we go back to the beginning, when I was just a kid, getting letters in shaky penmanship from my great grandmother and gorgeous cursive from my ever-so-proper “fancy Grami,” we can see why I was so enthralled with the art of letter writing.
Her handwriting is so beautiful it even makes a simple brunch seem high society.
The idea that a grown up would sit down and take the time to write long and beautiful letters to me and actually want to get a response back? But, as with all things, my appreciation and dedication has ebbed and flowed over the years. In high school, I was focused more on planning the future than appreciating the present, and so I slacked off. But with college came a resurgence, thanks in part to the old “absence makes the heart grow fonder” adage. Then, inside my own classroom, I found myself pulling out these examples of different types of written communication with my sixth graders: trying to show them the value of a letter.
They particularly enjoy one of my most treasured cards, written to me from my dad while I was at camp.
Funny truth – he was writing about playing tennis with the woman who is now my principal, which blows the minds of my baby children. That and the fact that there are adults who still take the time to sit down and write to their children. You don’t hear as much about parents writing to their children as you do reading to them, and I think that’s one of our failures as adults. Lately, as one of the aforementioned adults, I’ve found myself too busy to write letters and buy postage and all the tiny moments that I would need to take out of my day to continue the habit.
And you know what? My life is all the poorer for it.
So today, as I sat in the computer lab with my students who just finished taking their final standardized test of the year, I started writing. I wrote to relatives, I wrote to friends, I wrote to strangers (see postscript) and once or twice, I even wrote to students.
There are so many other things I could have been doing – finishing reading my Lonestar book, lesson planning, writing this blog – but I didn’t. Today, I took time out to just sit down and write. To send a little piece of my heart through the mail to people near and dear to me.
Friends, I feel fabulous, and I encourage you to join me.
Love love love,
PS – If you’re looking for someone to write or a good deed to do, I highly encourage you to check out the movement behind More Love Letters – they can help you find a way to enrich the world with written communication.