I got a letter from my Mum this week. Not a long letter. Not a fancy letter. It didn’t really even tell me much that I didn’t already know, but it was still a lovely surprise because, quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time I received an actual letter in the post (not just from Mum—from anyone). Come to think of it—I can’t remember the last time I wrote one either . . .
I guess it’s not all that surprising. Time and technology wait for no man. Why write a letter when you can contact someone in a nano-second by phone, email, text or tweet? There must be a whole generation of people out there who have never even thought about hand-writing a letter to a friend or relative. In a world where ‘google’ is a verb, Wikipedia is the new Encyclopedia Britannica, Android is no longer only a character in a sci-fi movie and texting has created its own language one could begin to believe that social media has become the only acceptable way to connect.
I know I am showing my age here but I do remember a time when I wrote, and received, letters all the time. When I left home at the age of 17 (centuries ago) to go and work in another country my mother had only one rule for me (or at least only one rule she voiced out loud)—I had to write a letter home every week. It didn’t matter if I had nothing remotely interesting to say, whether I been out gallivanting around the town, whether I had been working flat out, or had been in bed all week with the flu. One letter every week—that was the rule. And I wrote them. For years and years. And, truth be told, once I got into the swing of it I quite enjoyed writing them (but don’t tell my Mum that). I must have written hundreds.
How interesting would it be now (and a tad freaky) to reread some of those letters written by my much younger self? I reckon it would be a bit like time travelling backwards. I wonder if I would even recognise the girl I was then? I must ask Mum whether she kept any of them . . .
Because people do keep letters, don’t they? Letters from childhood penpals, or school friends, or family, or old lovers. They are precious to them. The paper they are written on, the ink they are written with, the individual handwriting whether neatly scripted or quickly scrawled. Some letters come with doodles or drawings and odd little inserts. They have special a way of evoking memories and emotions. They say you are worth the time and effort (and extra expense) of receiving a letter. I guess that is why so many handwritten letters have survived throughout history. They are so personal. A bit like diaries. People are loathe to destroy them.
Today of course people still have vast correspondences, but most of it is entirely electronic. I wonder how many people out there feel compelled to save (all tied up with pretty string in a box in the wardrobe) sentimental printouts of emails, phone texts or microbursts from the twitterverse? Not so very many I would guess. And how much easier now to get rid of it all. Highlight. Delete. Gone.
There. I’ve gone and made myself all nostalgic. Not nostalgic enough to stop writing emails or using my phone of course (I’m not entirely silly) but nostalgic enough to think about maybe writing back to Mum, instead of giving her a quick phone call.
I have to go into town this weekend anyway. Maybe I’ll spend some extra time looking for some pretty stationery . . .