Monday, October 8, 2012


What is left to write by hand? There's an app for nearly everything and for most of those things, I have tried out the app. The grocery shopping app is waaaaay too much trouble for something so simple. But reminders apps are great. A piece of paper won't beep at you at a certain time reminding you to pick up the dry cleaning.

I have gone back and forth over the years on keeping paper journals. Right now, I'm all about the electronic. I can type up not for public consumption journal entries on my phone while leaning against the doors of a subway car. But I can't write those entries by hand while standing up. For some reason, things tend to become clear for me when standing on the subway like they do for others when they are in the shower. When I'm in the shower in the morning I'm too groggy and all I can think of is, "did I wash my hair a minute ago? I already forgot."

I'm glad the internet did not become so pervasive until I was out of college because up until that point my friends and I still wrote each other lots of letters. I still have some of those old letters. Surprisingly, none of my friends want their letters back and I'm unable to throw them away. I would want my letters back if anyone had any I wrote to them long ago. The letters from old boyfriends are mostly ridiculous, though. Those I did throw away.

A letter from my great Aunt Helen
My first pen-pal was my grandma. Somewhere at my parents' house I have a few of the earliest letters she wrote me. She carefully wrote them out in print so that I would not have trouble reading them.

My grandma is 102 years old and my mother and her brothers finally had to move her into an assisted living situation this past spring. Things have been going downhill since then. She's no longer able to write me back, but I try to write as often as I can. I tell myself I'll write her every week, but how quickly a couple weeks go by before I realize I haven't written her.

It's strange writing to someone knowing they can't write back. I'm used to asking questions in letters, even if I don't really expect specific answers. There is no replying to anything mentioned in the other person's last letter. There is merely following up on something I wrote previously. It feels self-indulgent or something. I probably would not keep up with writing to her so often if my mom didn't tell me that Grandma appreciates my letters very much. So, I keep it up.

I have a young pen-pal of my own now: my friend Karyl's daughter, Grace, who just turned 8 on Sunday. Bit by bit her letters back to me are getting longer. Even though she will have grown up always having a computer at her disposal, I hope she'll continue to take pleasure in letter writing. And I hope that she meets other people -- young people -- who enjoy it as well. Here's hoping!


mim said...

Of course, I do write letters, notes, and postcards, even to people I know won't write back. But I secretly hope they will. I don't write to mom, who's 98 and in a nursing home. My sister carelessly said - "Oh mom doesn't care about any of that anymore." Oh boy. I still have many of the letters she wrote to me and I know she kept mine for many many years.

Kristian said...

I love the stories of your first penpals and am glad you are writing to that young girl. It is sad that the haibt of having a penpal is fading. It was lovely to have.