Three years ago, when our house burned down, I lost an important part of my identity. Now, this was a part that had been dying out for awhile, but the fire ended it definitively.
Along with being the person with a lot of books, I was also a letter-writer. I’ve written letters almost all my life, starting in fourth grade when my best friend moved to Indiana. We have stayed in touch for close to 40 years, and while now it’s via email and Facebook, I doubt we would still be close today if it weren’t for the letters we exchanged.
I took letter writing to a-whole-nother level when I went away to college. I maintained regular correspondence with around 14 people. My first year I had a rule that I had to answer each letter on the day I received it, meaning that on the day I received 17 letters I was up writing until two a.m. My husband worked at the Georgetown Post Office, and he tells me I was known their by name, and that they made jokes that I should have my own zip code.
I didn’t quite keep up that pace all four years, but I did keep writing letters. And I saved the replies. Until they burned in the fire I had a foot-locker-sized box full of letters.
As email and then Facebook changed the way people kept in touch, I still kept writing letters. I had a few correspondents, but I even sent letters to folks who didn’t reply. Every year after Christmas, for example, I’d write a quick note to anyone who had written a personal message or enclosed a letter (even a form letter!) in their Christmas card. Right up until the house burned down I was still taking pictures on film and getting extra prints so I could enclose them in my letters.
I had a briefcase that was dedicated to my letter writing enterprise. It contained the address book I had maintained for many years, various cards and stationery, address labels, stamps, pens, pictures or clippings I planned to enclose in letters, and any letters I needed to answer. When I would go out by myself, I would bring it along and write a letter or two. I was going months between letters but I was still writing them.
Well, now I don’t have my briefcase or my address book or a camera or even any letters to answer. But what I do have is a LOT of blank cards and address labels that have come my way via inheritance (Grandma AND Mima) or via pleas for donations by various charities. I realized exactly how many when I was rummaging about for a Get Well card last night.
I miss writing letters. And I don’t want all those cards to go to waste. So I am going to start writing again. Maybe not ten-page epistles like I used to do, but at least little notes to let people know I am thinking about them.