Thursday, August 14, 2008

snail mail

It's been a long time since I have awaited the mail with quite so much anticipation.

Remember when friends and family and lovers frequently chose that method to communicate? Some of you reading this might not even remember that. Getting a letter is such a wonderful experience, but one that becomes rarer and rarer. During high school, a friend (who lived a block away) and I used to conduct most of our conversations through the mail, just because, mostly just because it is such a special personal thrill to see mail addressed to you. Thanks to the wonders of the British Postal System, which used to deliver mail twice a day, our letters would flurry back and forth during particularly newsworthy times -- which for teenage girls, is pretty much all the time.

I have a friend who still sends me wonderful letters from time to time, handwritten, with all kinds of newspaper articles and photographs included. I wait to open them until I am sitting down, with a cup of tea at hand and a quiet moment to savor the contents. I appreciate her letters all the more as she is one of the last few to send them.
I am forced to join ranks with the legions of curmudgeons that decry the loss of the letter. I truly think our kids are worse off with the quick e-mail and IM and text messages in their place. They are missing that sweet experience of rambling on about nothing in particular, about creating quizzes and questions to be answered by return post, about stopping and then picking up again halfway through, about thinking about how to communicate just to that one person in particular, about revealing things about yourself that weren't possible face to face. I don't deny that other forms of communication have taken their place, but I don't think they are as rich and deep as the simple letter.

But enough of my waxing poetic about letters. The reason the mail is so special this week is that the older boys are away at a camp that bans all cell phones, computers, and other everyday communication devices. They don't even have access to a phone, except in case of emergency. The only communication available to them is the good ol' fashioned US postal service.

I optomistically sent them to camp with 4 self-addressed, stamped envelopes: two for their parents, and two for their little brother. I had already sent them letters prior to their stay to make sure they would receive something during the beginning of camp week. After they left, while doing our errands, Terzo would choose postcards at the post office, dictate his messages, and then stamp and post them right then and there. Every afternoon, Terzo and I sat down, chose our stationary for the day, and composed additional messages before carefully addressing them and sending them off.

And what have we received in return?

Secondo has been the most prolific: we have already gotten two notes from him, one to us and one to Terzo. (He is so unaccustomed to sending letters, however, that he failed to put an address, beyond Terzo's name, on the card; it found us because I had the foresight to put our home address as the return address.)

As for Primo: nothing, zip, nada. I have the feeling that we will get a short note next Tuesday, as he will remember on the last day of camp to send something off.

I can only hope that the joy of receiving all the mail sent to them -- from me, from LSH, from Terzo, from their grandparents -- will be as special as I remember it, and will stick with them beyond this quick week at camp. Who knows? Next year, I might get two letters in return, but I'm not holding my breath.


  1. I don't remember any lovers choosing to communicate with me by mail; however, there is a good chance that:
    A) I lost my memory
    B) The P.O. lost all those letters
    C) All of the above

    The correct answer, of course, being C.

  2. Of course that's the correct answer.

    I know for a fact that you received letters from friends, though perhaps not as many as you should.

  3. Should I remember letters from a young girl at camp? quickly things change....

  4. As their mom, I reserve the right to institute different rules than I may have followed myself. Isn't that the essence of parenthood?