How are you? I hope you’re well.
Do you remember the first time you wrote a letter? I’m trying to remember who taught me to write a letter, if there was a proper technique that I’ve since abandoned. I was for sure taught how to write a thank you note–I’m a Southerner after all–but don’t know where the importance of social correspondence falls on the education system.
I do remember my first pen pal. When I was a kid, my cousin and I used to write one another letters. We’d write entire worlds to one another. We’d stuff four or five letters into a single envelope and then start writing more letters before that envelope had even left the city. Those letters were rambling messes where we plagiarized entire plots from our favorite books, Greek and Roman mythology, and anything else we came across. We were writing for ourselves more than we were writing for one another.
There’s something magical about writing a letter, about sending a letter, about receiving a letter. You sit down to write a letter and put a piece of yourself on the page, then you fold yourself up, stuff yourself into an envelope, seal it with a lick or a kiss, whatever your preference, and send yourself off.
And then, in 3-5 business days, the recipient comes home from a long day at the office or the school or the dock or wherever their place of employment may be, looking to unwind with a beer or a home cooked meal or a few episodes of Sex & the City (I’m such a Miranda), and there you are, sitting in the middle of their front porch or dining room table or rickety double-headed cat bench, inserting yourself into their life. Even after they’ve finished the letter, you linger for a chat, reminiscing on shared memories.
I like this ability to be an unforeseen intrusion into someone’s day. I imagine that everyone is delighted to receive a letter from me and make no apologies if they aren’t.
Before I left for Spain, I collected a list of addresses, written down in a small pocket notebook that’s now floating around somewhere in a drawer of my desk. When I’d travel to Granada or Madrid or London or Cadiz, I’d spend twenty or so euros on postcards and then on Monday night, after I’d finished teaching my classes, I’d sit at my kitchen table and work my way down the list.
I sent off memories as souvenirs, entrusting pieces of my weekends abroad to anyone who’d shared with me their address. I’ve probably forgotten half the things I wrote to cousins and college roommates and mothers of friends from high school, but I like to think that they put those postcards somewhere safe and they’re holding onto the memories I’ve forgotten until such a time when I may need to collect.
I have a history with letters. I’ve been writing them for almost longer than I’ve been doing anything: writing stories, writing texts, writing hilariously witty descriptions for Facebook events, and certainly longer than I’ve been lettering. I thought it’d be nice to get back to the basics. I make no apologies for this intrusion into your day.