For a Letter I Can Hold in My Hands


Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window

This was an unusual mail week.  Rather than just the usual advertisements, credit card solicitations and bills, I received three personal hand written letters, carefully and thoughtfully composed, all meant to encourage me.  They were written in response to a professional honor I had received that was recently publicized in a local magazine, but I was amazed at the caring shown by three different women who took the time to sit down and write to me.

It reminded me how infrequently I actually hand write any communication any more, how dependent I’ve become on the instantaneous nature of email, and how much I used to enjoy writing letters back and forth to family and friends, in what feels like another life.  It has been too long.  I am determined to write a letter a week to someone who needs to be able to feel the caring right in their hands.

Letters can be forever–a tangible representation of the writer illustrated by their choice of envelope, stamp and paper, writing utensil, style of script, sometimes a scent.  The neatness or hurried nature of the writing says something about the urgency with which it was written.   Emails have none of those features, and can feel ephemeral, although we know they can always be found and retrieved, for good and for ill, by those who know how to look for them.

One of my hopeful summer projects will be sorting through my parents’ letters to each other during their three year separation while my father served as a Marine in the South Pacific during WWII.  The letters are tied in bundles in a large box that I have not had the will to open since moving my mother’s possessions after her death 18 months ago.  I know once I start to read these very private and heartfelt letters, I will find it difficult to stop.

Does a blog of daily thoughts become a reasonable substitute for a collection of letters? Hardly.  The page that can be held in the reader’s hands holds the writer too.  That is something a computer screen can never manage.

4 thoughts on “For a Letter I Can Hold in My Hands

  1. Letters are indeed a tangible representation of caring and encouragement – with the personal “imprint” of the person given through choice of paper and handwriting. Hope you find success in you endeavor of a letter this week.

  2. Oh my gosh what a gift you have in the box of your parents’ letters! I lost my mother 11 months ago, and I have two boxes of letters she and my father exchanged while they were courting from 1938-1942. There must be over a thousand of them. I have started reading them, in chronological order. It is the most moving journey I have ever made. I can hear their voices as I read, and I can picture their surroundings from the old photo albums they made. It is like being with them again, and I feel the safety and love they gave me all through my childhood. They were deliriously in love their whole lives, and it is a precious treasure to become intimately acquainted with my parents in the way they became intimately acquainted with each other – ie, through their love letters. I can see so well the legacy of love they left for me and my three siblings, in our own ability to love each other. Is it sad? Oh yes, but such a poignant, grateful heart-filling remembrance of the two people who made me who I am today. You are so lucky – what a wonderful journey lies ahead of you!

  3. just as the Bible holds so many promises and encouragements , a letter can also be that place of quiet and peace and hope and sharing … a personal message from someone that loves deeply and wants to let you know … I am always so honored to get a real letter and I cherish it and keep it tucked away for those times that we most need that boost in this busy world today … the words my grandma wrote 30 years plus ago still remaind a treasure to me and I hope your Mom and Dad’s letters as you read them will reveal treasures of the heart … all the best to you … Peggy in eastern Wash ……headed out to plant more in the garden of life …

  4. Nearly everytime I read something you write, I find that perfect line, that perfect sentiment,….
    No exception here. “The page that can be held in the reader’s hands holds the writer too.”
    How exquisitely put.

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