I’m reading this book, little by little, that my anti-mommy gave me for Christmas.  It is called Between Ourselves; Letters Between Mothers and Daughters.  And as I read these letters and these stories about the letters and the love of famous and unknown women alike I wonder why I am made to feel that writing letters is a bad thing.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

I could go on for hours on that topic!  I hate the telephone.  I call my dad because he lives so far away and I cannot survive without his advice.  I call my husband because we live together yet I rarely get to see him.

Thousands of years we survived and flourished without the use of the telephone.  There were missives carried on sweating, galloping horseback from one king to another.  There were vows of love hidden in secret places, known only to those amorous enough to find them.  There were entire sacks full of words transferred thousands of miles on bright, shiny-new railways, and there are those delivered by the well-known postman to someone just down the street.  There was dirt and despair of war penned back to light and worried, waiting life across the sea and there are conversations of introduction and getting-to-know-you of pen pals. 

Letters are beautiful things and I love them.  Because they are filled with my favorite things; ink and words (which are themselves made up of letters) put on paper; scrawled or dictated, typed or etched or cut from newspaper and pasted down.  Letters are eternal, yes both the good and the bad.

“What’s wrong with a phone call?”

Oh, but they’re so impersonal!  A sweaty hunk of plastic crammed against my head.  I can’t see your face and if there’s something more interesting right in front of me I can focus on that instead.  Then, when it’s over, what’s left?  Nothing, really.  All the words fade and are forgotten.

Letters take time and patience to craft.  They draw out the truths in revisions when you realized you’ve used the wrong words to say what you mean.  They draw and expel anger away in their writing, and even if some of it falls to the page you can always come back before it’s sent and append or set it to flame and start again.

Mr. Darcy explained all and made Elizabeth finally love him with a letter.  Amelie mended the broken heart of a neighbor with a well-meaning albeit forged letter lost in transit for 40 years.  Fiction, yes, but even fiction is a letter from the author’s soul to the hearts of the rest of the world. 

Writing, when I know saying it out loud will not suffice, does not make me a coward.  It does not signify disrespect or a hit-and-run approach to communication.  Writing, when a phone call could be made, simply indicates that I should have been born into a different time of simpler communication.  Because words fall out of my mouth in a tumbling, disjointed way and I always get things wrong.  When I put pen to paper and have the time to carefully organize my thoughts and the ability to cross out and resay what I’ve said then I appear fluent in my own language.

Letters are beautiful things.

And, as a final, snarky aside, I’d like to point out that Facebook messages are private.  If I have a letter for you in dire need of reading and my email address book contains more than five points of contact because you change your address so often then I won’t be sure where to send it.  Instead, I’ll put it in a place where I’m sure you’ll see it.  Neither my friends nor yours will be any the wiser.

 

And one last appendix, this time of self-criticism, I realize  I could write more letters more often, not just when something is wrong.  That is something I can work on when things have mended or time has passed.  But since I have only realized this fact now, as I’m writing this, I will not beat myself up over past failure.  Instead I will learn from my mistakes.  Already a plan to move forward has seeded itself in the garden of my mind…

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