It is customary to send or receive birthday cards for a special day, and since my birthday was two days ago, I have to mention how much I enjoy receiving snail mail of any kind. The most recent card I’ve received, then, is my birthday card from Sawyer (something that brought happy tears to my eyes). For Christmas of last year, I wrote 15 “To Open When:” cards for Sawyer with various scenarios in which he could open and read a letter I had penned to him. There is something romanticized about receiving a letter or card that was hardly the case when snail mail was a more common form of communication.
Nowadays we can send a quick email, a message on Facebook, pick up our cell phones to make a speed dial call, or even send a short text message in order to keep in contact. Being connected 24/7 has become the new norm. I must admit that, one day two months ago, I forgot my phone at home when on my way to work and it almost felt as though part of my arm was missing. By the end of the day, however, it felt like a relief not to have had my phone attached to me all day. It was like a breath of fresh air. The world is so ruled by technology. Forgetting my phone almost felt like a rebirth.
It may be my tendency to love anything that has to do with writing or reading, but sending or receiving a card/letter is one of my greatest joys. I tend to write more freely when I write with pen on paper rather than typing out a text message or even writing my thoughts down on a fresh sheet of digital paper on the computer screen. I know that when I send a card/letter to someone, they are getting bits of information I may have mentioned, but not gone into detail about. In other words, they’ll be receiving something unique, personal, and heartfelt, each and every time. Taking the time to write someone a card or letter means that they put the effort in to reach out to you in a special way. I find this quality in snail mail extremely attractive.
My friend Katie and I have grand plans to send each other letters and cards once I move to Philadelphia. We used to exchange cards about twice a month while we were in college together, despite taking a couple of the same classes and having lunch together on-campus once a week. I have begun to think of things differently, with my exodus rapidly approaching (only 14 days from now!), and I want to keep my friends here as close to me as possible, despite the distance. I have begun collecting cards. Not purposefully, but carefully, purchasing cards that distinctly remind me of Katie, or another friend with whom I want to stay close.
Similar to that passing fancy five our six years ago that assumed books would be replaced by the Kindle/Nook, that newspapers would be replaced by media online coverage, that writing would become an antiquated practice – receiving snail mail is also “making a comeback”. I can’t help but make one snarky remark about how everyone thought bookstores were a thing of the past, but my towns’ Barnes & Noble will be hosting a midnight release party for Harry Potter & the Cursed Child this weekend… I’m a lover of the series and am thankful to be able to participate in something that fosters a comity among people. It is the same practice that I believe writing and receiving snail mail creates between people. There is a certain bond that is formed between writer and reader that is valued, even in a society that is ruled primarily by technology.
The simplicity of a handwritten letter is appealing. It isn’t overbearing with too much going on to be able to concentrate on the message (think a blog post with too many ad spaces…). Not only this, but I enjoy keeping the special cards I receive from friends and family – the cards that, written years ago, would still be touching to me today. The cards and letters that mean something to me; whether they are filled to the brim with love, lessons, salutations, happiness, sorrow, etc., they are nevertheless bearing the emotions of those who trust me with their honesty. There is something intimate about snail mail, no matter how simple and straightforward a card might seem.
I am excited to move to Philadelphia, despite my misgivings, my nerves, my sadness about moving away from friends and family. I know that when I send a letter to friends or family in Vermont, it will be a purposeful act. An act that took time and thought to complete, an act that I put slivers of my heart into for safekeeping. There is an old but not-so-forgotten charm about snail mail; no matter how simple it seems, it’s thronged with meaning. I know that, even though I don’t live three miles from my best friend or nine miles from my parents, I’ll still be able to connect with them with letters that are valued.