When was the last time you wrote a letter to a loved one or friend?
I haven't written a traditional letter in years. I started thinking about this over Christmas break because I was going through old letters from my Great Aunt Mamie. Normally I'm not so sentimental about things like old letters. But I have to admit, I was happy to find them hidden in my old closet.
When I started reading the letters, I got teary eyed because I miss my Aunt tremendously. As I was reading, I started thinking about her non-conformist ways. My Aunt was a lot like my Grandparents; she lived a very frugal and simple life. In addition, she never married, had children, or owned a car. She loved to travel and took the bus and walked everywhere.
As a result, she was able to take long trips across the country and always wrote friends and family detailed letters about her adventures. For a woman who came of age during the Great Depression, these choices were unusual. According to her family and her peers, she was "supposed" to get married and have kids, not travel across the country or live in a large city.
Through her letters she taught me about success, love, and unconventional living. I needed to hear my Aunt's words, especially when I was a little girl and teenager.
A Little Background...
My parents split-up when I was five and soon after the divorce my mom decided to move to Red Bluff, CA. Over Christmas, I asked my mom why she moved to such a little town and she said:
"I didn't want to raise you in a big city and Red Bluff was affordable. So it really had to do with the safety factor of bringing up a kid as a single parent. I just didn't want to see you coming home from school alone."
Mom and I were sad to leave the city because we were leaving behind my Aunt and other family members. I saw my Great Aunt every weekend and talked to her on the phone everyday after school. Knowing that I wouldn't see her all the time made me incredibly sad.
And that's where the beauty of letter writing came in. My Aunt Mamie started sending me weekly letters. After school, I looked forward to checking the mail box. It was part of my weekly routine and it was a magical experience.
I wasn't that good about writing back and I regret not telling my Aunt how much I appreciated her thoughtful letters. When I spoke to her on the phone, I always told her how much I loved her. I thought she would be around forever. I guess that's a sign of youth; thinking that things will always be the same and they won't. Life is constantly changing, so it's important to be grateful for what you have in the here and now.
Prior to downsizing, I didn't think much about my past. I was too busy worrying about paying my bills to reflect on past lessons and experiences. Slowing down has given me the time and space to reflect on life and show gratitude to those you really care about.
Traditional letters tend to be more thoughtful and original than email correspondence and twitter updates. Email, Facebook, and Twitter and are great ways to send quick updates to people. But getting a letter in the mail is almost like having a good friend stop by my house for coffee.
As I was reading through my Aunt's old letters I noticed that she didn't use fancy stationary and her notes always came along with a story from the newspaper, a recipe or a photo. All you need to get started is regular paper, a few envelopes, a pen, stamps, and you'll be good to go.
Letter writing is a lost art and we should bring it back into style. It's one way to show gratitude and love in a very busy world.