Thoughts on Handwritten Letters From Years Gone By
The postage stamp on the slightly blue-tinged envelope says 19 FEB 1974. That was 16 years before I was born. The writing inside doesn’t look familiar to me, although I suppose it should. I’m referring to a hand-written letter, sent to my Mother from my Dad, one of many that travelled back and forth, across the country during their dating days.
You see my mum recently discovered an old suitcase full of old letters she’d kept. She’s since read through them and destroyed most, much to my protest. I was interested to see what kind of messages my parents were sending each other in their younger days, before marriage or mortgages or children. And what content warranted such effort to hand write, stamp, post and wait for a reply. There’s an automatic romanticism about old letters, but remember, they weren’t all full of beautiful poems and outpourings of affection, as the movies would have us believe. Conversation options were just pretty limited.
We have options now, so many options we’re spoilt for choice! Messages can be sent a word at a time. Short novels can be written and received in a flash, and all via a different app on our phone if we so wish. But these things are fleeting. A touching text message can be buried by others and forgotten about before the day is through. Appearing in the same heartless font as would a text to say you’re out of data. You can take a screenshot of the messages you feel are especially lovely. Which I have done in the past…But you won’t rediscover a box of those, in a musty suitcase, in 30 years time. They will most likely be stuck inside a broken phone or long lost in the digital ether.
Unsurprisingly the one letter that survived and my Mum let me read, didn’t tell of any groundbreaking news or events. It’s just my Dad updating her on his week so far. Talking about listening to records, going out to wash his car in the sun, and looking forward to the weekend. I find it simultaneously weird and lovely to think of my mum and dad sending letters to each other. Having only known them as adults and parents, of course; I’m the youngest of three children. It’s easy to forget that they were once young and dating. Waiting patiently for a letter from their dearest love, knowing time & effort had been taken to sit down and write it by hand. The only correspondence to be had until seeing each other in person again.
In the present day, there’s rarely an opportunity to see much of our loved one's handwriting. I remember being excited to see what my partner’s handwriting looked like. I feel seeing the shape letters take by a person’s hand is all a part of getting to know them just like their favourite music or films. It wasn’t until my birthday when I received a card from my boyfriend that I got to see his handwriting. With the space inside he wrote an appropriately lovely message for the occasion and I still have that card along with each one I’ve received since then.
For most of us giving a greeting card is now one of the only times we hand write a message to someone. Choosing a card that’s completely blank inside is even better. That way we’re forced to actually write something, rather than just sign our name quickly. And to me, seeing something handwritten just makes it all that more meaningful and genuine. So resist hitting send or post the next time someone has something to celebrate. Buy a card, and write something inside that you haven’t said to them in a while. Make it something they’ll want to keep and maybe they’ll re-discover it in years to come.
Thank you for reading,