Goodbye Letters

The daughter of a good friend of mine graduated from high school this summer.  She’s a wonderful girl.  As an example of her grace andletters thoughtfulness she sent me a very nice thank you note for the gift I gave her.  I was delighted.  It’s so rare these days for anyone to do such a thing, let alone a young person.  There was, however, one thing I was really curious about.  The entire note was printed, even the signature.

When I asked my friend about this she said that they taught her handwriting in about the 3rd grade but that no one is using it any more.  Wow.

Technology has given us speed.  We have spell check, which is a godsend for me.  I really can’t spell.  Everything is legible. We don’t wait for days to know something.  Sure, the phone texts are funky and sometimes downright weird.  But what are we giving up to have all of this?

I do find that with all the typing I do, my handwriting has gotten messier and I still use cursive, a lot!  I’ve been pissed with myself for years for not having paid more attention to the shorthand I took in high school.  I’d love to have that skill and be able to take more effective notes.  It’s too late, though.  I can’t find a place anywhere that teaches it L.

Note taking was the first place that my mind went to when I thought about my friend’s daughter going off to college and only printing.  It changes everything.  Of course, they won’t print.  They’ll sit there typing on their laptop or pad, taking notes, hardly looking up.  That changes the interaction or maybe even eliminates it?  The thought of trying to be a teacher with no one even looking in your general direction makes me sad.

And then I think of the letters I have.  Yes, I know.  I don’t actually write them anymore.  All the more reason for me to cherish the ones I have.   I have over 20 years of letters from one grandmother.  I recently reread them all and was delighted to be back in her company.  It so transported me that several times I thought, “I’ll need to write her back about this.” as I was reading.

Reading the letters I have from my dad not only brought him back but gave me some insights I hadn’t seen before about his thoughts on, wouldn’t you know it, money!

The earliest family letter I have is from Guy Wood to Nellie Willits in 1893.  Several years later, they would marry and, many years after that, I become their great granddaughter.  He was writing to her as she was visiting the Chicago World’s Fair.  The irony in this letter is that he points out that she should go see the City of San Francisco in the California Building.  That would be the exhibit of how ‘Frisco looked 13 years before the devastating 1906 earthquake.

Each letter is a window into the writer, the recipient and their relationship. It’s not just in their words but in their script.  I can recognize their handwriting as easily as their voices.  I love the misspellings, the incorrect grammar, the scratch outs, the little drawings.  My grandmother used to always think of something she forgot to add, so it would be written in sideways or even on the flap of the envelope in tiny script.  You don’t get any of that with a keyboard.

The more I think about this, the more mixed up I get.  There’s no stopping it and I want to remember the gifts of that slower process as I let it go and say goodbye…sigh.



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