Well Intended / The romance of pen, paper and postal delivery
Published 6:13 am, Thursday, February 28, 2013
I made and mailed Valentine cards this year. It's the first year that both of my children were too old to be required to deliver a card to every classmate. I anticipated missing the traditional mess of pink and red glitter, construction paper hearts and lacy doilies. I also just wanted to give some friends a reason to be glad to receive mail.
I have been thinking about the recent discussion about the decision of the United Postal Service to eliminate the Saturday delivery of regular mail. I realized, that I very rarely receive anything positive in the mail anymore. I never receive checks. I tend to read journals and periodicals online. It's rare that anyone sends me a letter. I did score a birthday card earlier this week (thanks, Mom). Otherwise, my mailbox is primarily used for bills and unwanted advertising. In truth, even my bills are mostly electronic these days. I walk to the recycle bin before even bringing the mail inside, it's that useless.
There was a time when mail was essential, varied and exciting. I spent a semester in Paris as a college student, way back before the Internet made communication instant and incessant. There, I purchased onion-skin thin blue Aerogramme papers, wrote on all sides in tiny script, folded them, sealed them and took them to the post office and mailed them home. Their journey would take a week or more. I waited anxiously for mail from the United States, which would be slipped under my dorm-room door. We didn't have mobile phones or Skype or Facebook. In those days, being far from home brought with it a different kind of distance. I had a phone card, and used it rarely from a phone booth on a street corner. Mail mattered.
I enjoy the feeling of paper. I like the heft of an engraved wedding invitation. I am pleased when I recognize the upright writing of a dear friend on the back of a postcard, even if it's delivered days after she has returned from her vacation. I love seeing my grandmother's neat penmanship on an envelope. She also tends to decorate her letters with stickers that I might have enjoyed as a girl.
Everything changes. We don't write love letters and send them in the mail anymore. My children can barely read cursive. We no longer wait for the mail carrier in the way that we once might have. It's rare that I want a paper copy of anything. I'm not sure this is something we should lament, and it doesn't mean we don't communicate. We find ways of using technology to build and strengthen relationships. My kids may Facetime to check-in when they are away with their dad for the weekend. Yesterday, my father sent me an email that would have taken up several pages, had it been written on paper. Clients share large files in an instant.
I think I will make a point to write more letters and to send them in the mail, not because it's necessary, but because it's pleasant. It's perfectly fine with me if my friends and relatives don't receive my notes on Saturday. Anything worth writing on paper, will remain true (at least over the weekend).
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.