Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Miss Real Mail

For some reason it has hit me the past two days how much I miss getting real mail. Maybe because it's so cold outside, so just walking the extra steps to the mailbox is a stretch for the will. And I do it, because you don't want the mailbox just getting filled up. So I go.

And I do still have that little bit of a sense of anticipation.

"What might be in there?"

"Who might I hear from?"

"I wonder if there might be something from...."

But the truth is that mail with handwriting on the envelope is so rare, that little anticipatory rise is becoming less and less noticeable. Envelopes with what looks like handwriting are often fake, some stupid company's attempt to get your attention.

I'm not sure why this has hit me so hard lately. It's been a few months now that I find myself thinking about it, grieving the loss of real mail.

The mail used to be such an important part of my life. When I was growing up, there were cards from Grandmother, letters from cousins, letters from penpals. In high school it was letters from people I'd met at camp or Governor's School.

In college, campus mail was a lifeline. We sent mail like crazy. Checking mail each day was just fun.

And then of course I moved overseas. And back when there was no email, and phonecalls were beyond my budget and that of most people I knew, mail was the way to stay in touch. Letters from home, from friends or family, were part of the glue that held me together during homesick times and just hard times.

When I lived in Croatia, and the war was going on, one dear friend made a commitment to write me weekly, and she did it for much of the worst part of my time there.

And there used to be letters, or pictures, from children. And thank-you notes from time to time. Sending something in the mail used to be an exciting thing for children, I think. But it has been eclipsed by faster, more fascinating ways of communicating, I guess.

And of course most of my life, there were cards and letters from Grandmother. I'm sure I inherited a letter-writing gene from her. It was so much a part of her, not only birthday and anniversary cards, but just little notes to say "thinking of you," sharing news from her life, sending a newspaper article she'd read and thought I would enjoy.

I have tended to be a letter-writer myself, and I do try hard not to miss important dates for sending cards to people I love. But the computer, and the American way of life, have changed me. I have way more stationery than I can use at any given time. I'm often writing notes to people in my head, but much less often do I actually sit and put the pen to paper, and stamp to envelope, and the whole thing in the mailbox.

But I miss it. I miss writing more letters, and I miss receiving them. I'm glad for email, because it does make some things more doable.

But twenty years from now, it's the cards from Grandmother and the letters that were sent to me in Croatia, and the sweet notes from my young nieces in their oh-so-carefully-attempted handwriting, that will be in a scrapbook or a special box that I will, I imagine, open up and look at now and then. I don't know where the emails will be....even the special ones that say important things, they just aren't the sort of thing you put in a box to treasure.

Well, the season of Christmas cards is soon to be upon us. We'll get more "real mail" in one month than we do in all the rest of the year. Even though more and more people are sending computer-generated letters (and we may this year), at least the envelopes will have that little part of the person, the handwriting. And it will be fun to see the writing on the envelope, to open it up and hear from friends and family, and have something pretty hanging all around the kitchen where we display them all.

And then January will come and go, and the mailbox will become again a conduit for the omniumgatherum of catalogues and bills and computer-generated blather, some requested by us, much destined for the recycling bin. Sigh.....

Oh, but then there is my birthday not far off, so the anticipation will be heightened again, I suppose.

I just wonder if there will come a day when I'll go the mailbox with no hope at all.

I don't know. I don't know how much it matters. I don't know if it bothers anyone else the way it bothers me. What about you, gentle readers? Am I an old fogey already, or do other people miss the mail the way I do?

Let me hear from you....and if you want to respond by real mail, we're in the White Pages. :-)

1 comment:

Carolinagirl said...

I love getting snail mail. It was so much appreciated while I was down range. E-mail was (and is) quick and easy and seems to be the preferable method of correspondence these days. I wonder how easy it would be to keep in contact with everyone if we had to actually sit down and hand write a letter or two.

I "love" my mailman. He delivers mail to my curb-side mailbox in his small red pick-up truck. I've come to know that he delivers to my box late in the day. I wave to him when I see him and speak to him when the occasion arises. He's such a pleasant man.

When I've a box too big for the mailbox, he brings it to my door and rings the bell. Yesterday, as I opened the door, he noted my presence from his truck as he had alredy returned to it. We waved and exchanged a few pleasantries and then he retreaved the mail from my box and met me half-way up the driveway with it.

Yes, snail mail is a blessing.