Friday, February 17, 2017

Thoughts On Handwritten Letters

When is the last time you wrote a personal letter? Or received one delivered by your postman?  It's rapidly become a thing of the past. Stores don't display as much stationery as they once did. I see mostly note cards and thank you cards. Apparently, people do still pen a thank you note or a quick personal note now and then.

Handwritten letters from long ago are sometimes used to show a particular period of history. Love letters written during wartime tell heart wrenching stories of couples separated by miles and circumstances beyond their control. Some people were able to put their feelings in letters when they could not express them aloud. Books have been written using only letters to tell a story. One I particularly liked that used that form was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

A cousin of my husband sent us some letters she'd found. One was written by Ken's mother when he was a very small child. In it, she told her sister something that no one in the immediate family ever knew. Had that letter not been saved, we still would have no knowledge of what Ken's mom had written. The information didn't change anyone's views or hurt the family in any way. Mostly, it was a sliver of information that helped the family know what life was like at a certain time in the parents' lives.

My mother and I wrote to one another once a week during my adult life until she was close to death. In her mind long distance calls were used for relaying bad news, never to just chat like we do today. So, we wrote one another each week with chit-chat. I would tell her of things our children were doing and she'd let me know about other family members. We'd discuss new recipes or old ones. New books or favorite old ones. Current events and more. When I saw her familiar handwriting on the envelope in my mailbox, I was eager to get to the house and read the weekly news. I still miss her letters.

Mom and one of my dad's cousin's daughter had become pen pals, too. When my mother passed away, I started writing to the cousin. I liked her a lot but it also gave me a chance to keep in contact with my father's side of the family.

Perhaps because I am a writer, I have always found writing a letter satisfying and enjoyable. Some people hate to write letters. I'm guessing they don't like to write anything more than a grocery list.

I still write letters to a number of friends and family but the majority of my letters are now email messages. Even so, there are a few people who do not use computers so I still hand write to them.

How do you feel about writing letters and/or receiving a handwritten letter? What about saving letters? I have never saved letters and there are times now when I wish I had. If some of those people in the last century had not saved their letters, we would have missed a lot, especially those written by celebrated figures of the past.


  1. Letters delivered in my mailbox remain my favorite, but long and thoughtful emails are okay, too. I much prefer the conversations between two people over the generic posts to the world that go out on Facebook. On the other hand, it's cool to hear snippets from so many people. Certainly more than I used to hear from when we relied on postage stamps to carry our missives back and forth. As a child, I was always on the lookout for someone who would write back. I sent off so many letters that went without response. When the pastor of our church moved away I was 7 years old, and I was thrilled when I discovered that he answered letters! So we began, he and his wife and I, a correspondence that has lasted 4 decades. He passed away in January, sadly, and I am composing a letter to his wife right now, in response to the announcement of her sad news that arrived in my mailbox.

    My mother was also a letter writer and she sent letters weekly once I left home for college. I saved each and every letter. They are amazing and full of information. Paints a perfect picture of her life on the farm. The grandchildren have enjoyed reading the excerpts I have culled from the collection.

  2. Wonderful that you saved your mother's letters. I so wish I had done so.