the (lost?) art of the epistle

my mother often laments the loss of letter-writing. she provides as evidence the hundreds of letters from her mother that she has kept for the better part of a half century. my grandmother and mother started this epistolary relationship around the time my mother left home for university, and the kept it up all the way to my grand-mother’s last conscious days. i instinctively learned to do the same as my mother, and began my own exchange with my grand-mother, with pen pals, and other acquaintances across the atlantic. in fact, i continued to send my grand-mother cards and letters even after she had departed in her senile haze.

all the emails, text-messages and blackberry to blackberry pins exchanged between us will never provide the evidence of contact that a pile of old-letters do. our contact is now increasingly fluid, it challenges the geographic distance between us, and like blogs, creates a sense of knowing and intimacy that we could not achieve otherwise. and yet, a letter, a real missive, on paper with a post-mark on the envelope, has not lost it significance. it conveys a sense of place (what country, what city was sent from?), a sense of context (my mother at her desk, looking over a smoggy pink sunset in MC), of mood (is she writing with her trademark green ink, or was this a hurried note on scrap paper written in ball-point?), and ultimately, of significance. for however long that letter is, for the seconds or minutes it took to write, i was in mother’s head, in her thoughts, on paper. and while i read it, miles and miles away, the same is true for me.

an email has rarely conveyed so much emotion. not that emails can’t be filled with emotion. there’s the break-up email, a classic of our time. the professional email – please see me asap – not without a frisson, the pre date text message – ct w8 2 c u – always titillating, and then there’s the first email sent to me by the lovely PB – within 24 hours of meeting (showed he had no hang-ups), it was a witty reference to our first conversation, and a reflections of his genuine, lovely, adorable self. i knew nothing of him yet, but i knew it was aaaaaall good.

but letters, letters! let’s not stop writing and sending them. i vow to continue sending pretty cards (this found on Etsy are just gorgeous) and am right THIS MOMENT committing to saving up for getting nice, personalized writing paper, the kind that has my name at the top, and maybe my initials printed on the back of the envelope. the kind that is a soft off white vellum, that soaks up the ink from my pen (must acquire that – I used to have so many – did they fall on the wayside with letter writing?). maybe I won’t get the paper at Smythson and can find a more reasonable pen than the Montblanc. i wish to write letters from home, not bankruptcy court.

so on this mother’s day week, be kind to your mom, wherever she is (near, far or gone), and write to her. i will be writing a letter to my mom, and one to my grand-mother. she won’t read it, but while i write to her, she’ll be with me. and that is pretty good.

and on that note, happy mama’s day!


Filed under family

2 responses to “the (lost?) art of the epistle

  1. Um, did you get my letter?

  2. galainoregon

    your letter INSPIRED this post! was that very obvious?

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