Is there any greater joy than seeing a handwritten envelope addressed to you in the stack of mail, amid the bills and credit card offers? I think not. And it's infinitely better when it's unexpected...no special reason, no birthday, no anniversary...just because. When I was a kid, letters came from friends at summer camp, far away friends...basically anyone whose house wasn't within biking distance. In school, correspondence came in the form of passed notes in the hall. Each one would be cherished for a while, and re-read over and over. I'm a little sorry to say I never actually keep correspondence...I'm not a saver, so there will be no publication of my memoirs when I'm gone. Maybe that will change as I get older, but really, it's not about the letters or cards. I love what the letters and cards represent. I don't need the original...I remember the feeling it gave me.
What makes the handwritten note so uniquely fantastic? I think it's a couple of things...being able to "see" the person's handwriting makes them closer for that moment. They were RIGHT THERE when they wrote it, and now they're RIGHT HERE. Cool. Handwriting is so personal, so individual, it's sharing a little of yourself. You can also see the emotion in the writing. It begins all neat with great intentions...as the excitement builds and the words flow faster, the writing reflects the excitement....practically illegible if it's a really good story. You can "hear" the person's voice as you read the words and you're together for that moment. Fantastic. You have to put some thought into what you'll say before you write, since there's no backspace or cut and paste. There are only so many scratch-outs allowed before it needs to be abandoned and started over. I like that thought is required. Maybe it's a girl thing, but scented pages add another dimension of personalization. Nothing is quite so potent as a smell memory. It's a multisensory experience...
Now, don't get me wrong...I'm a big believer in electronic correspondence in all forms. Love it. Love being able to let someone know at that exact moment in time that I'm thinking of them...love that with no effort I can make someone smile. There will always be a place for texts, e-cards, emails, and chat. It's all good. But for me, it will never match the ultimate pleasure of handwritten correspondence. Ever.
Today I received another batch of free greeting cards from a charity, and I started to put them in the ever-growing pile of free cards that I neither use nor throw away. I got to thinking about this very topic. Why, exactly, don't I just send them all to friends? For less than 50 cents, someone will handcarry that card to someone I care about in about a day. And they will be very happy for that second when they see their name. And maybe the good feeling will last a little longer too. That's enough to claim success. More than enough.