Being a “woman of a certain age” in the first part of the 21st century means that I have a unique set of skills, some of which seem hopelessly outdated. For example, in my shoulder-padded and spiral-perm-with-mousse high school days, I took “typing” class as opposed to “keyboarding.” Entire class periods were devoted to typing the letter “a” and using correction tape to fix errors.(Side note – I thought my mother was nuts for insisting on that. I have since apologized profusely as touch-typing is an incredibly useful skill.) For the whippersnappers in the audience, being in that age group is the reason some of us (ahem) have had trouble adjusting to the “single space after a period” rule. Then again, we also learned to diagram sentences and find people who are lackadaisical about basic grammar to be annoying. (Gentle readers, you never use an apostrophe to indicate plurals. Just don’t.)
Even earlier in my educational career, we were taught cursive. I’m left-handed and mine was always cramped and decidedly unpretty, so over the years, I learned to (a) print very quickly and (b) add swooping descenders on my letters to create a handwriting that is both distinct and (dare I say) pretty. Going along with that, our teachers spent time instructing us on the art of letter-writing – as in the old-fashioned kind with a salutation, paragraphs, a closing, and our signature. We then learned about addressing envelopes, where to place stamps, and the Post Office. We had a week or so of writing letters to family members and local officials to practice these skills.
Nowadays, it seems that all of these are quaint arts, on par with churning butter or making cornhusk dolls.
My mother is an exceptionally-talented artist in this medium. To this day, I often receive a letter from my mom, complete with newspaper clippings from my old hometown paper. Yes, I went through an eye-rolling phase about this – everything’s on the internet, Mom! – and I hope she forgives me for my pig-headedness. Repeat after me, Divas – faster isn’t always better! Those notes from my mom are filled with love and thoughtfulness. She thought about me enough to take time out of her day to take out paper and pen, write me a note in her own handwriting, add the clippings, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mail for no other reason than to let me know she loves me.
And that, dear Divas, is exactly the sort of joy we need to spread in this world.
Since November contains Thanksgiving here in America, the month has morphed into a month of gratitude. I decided I’d write a note to someone every day. I wrote friends, former teachers who had made a difference to me, people I knew were having a hard time in this often-dreadful year, and a few people I didn’t even know, but whom I admire. It’s been nice to spend ten minutes a day sitting down with a notecard and stamps and craft these short letters. (Look back at the photo at the top of this post – don’t you wonder what she’s writing? Cultivate that air of mystique and take your letter-writing to a café. Treat yourself to a good cup of something hot while you write. Occasionally gaze thoughtfully into the middle distance. Voila! You’re a woman of mystery!)
What I wasn’t expecting from my notes was the reaction they created – people were delighted to get an actual LETTER in the mail! Face it, we don’t get mail the way we used to. We text, or press the “like” button, or (maybe) email. (In fact, I have three volumes of “Inamorata Electronica” from my courting days with my husband. They are wonderful.) So the joy we feel when we just SEE a handwritten letter in the mailbox, nestled among the bills, junk ads, and political screeds – is palpable. And that’s before the recipient even opens the letter itself!
Notecards can be purchased at any office supply store and yes – you can still find stationery stores that will fix you up with personalized paper. (Pens are a whole other world – save the 89-cent disposable stick pens for banks and invest in a decent, good-weight pen. Warning – once you discover the world of fountain pens, you probably won’t look back!) Stamps can be found for any mood, holiday, or season. The notes don’t need to be essay-length and the effect they’ll have on the recipients will amaze you.
Go scatter joy!