“I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” -Abigail Adams
Our second First Lady was known for her prolific writing, and many beautiful quotes of hers have been pulled from her letters she use to write to her husband, President John Adams. Letter writing has become a lost art among my generation. We grew up writing letters to penpals and soldiers from the classroom, and letters to friends and family from summer camp. Even up until 2004, my friend Marla and I were trading letters while I was doing research at Texas A&M University and she was a counselor at a summer camp in New England. My grandmother use to write me beautiful letters, many of which I still have to this day. I remember the different note cards she would use, some with her name printed on them, and others with porcelain dolls. She loves letters so much that she made a copy of one I wrote her when I was 8 years old, and sent it to me; the letter, adorned with a caricature of Garfield eating a slice of pizza, is on my refrigerator. Her letters continued until she mastered e-mail five years ago.
When I reminded my grandmother that she use to write me, and how much I loved her letters, one day last year, to which she responded (by email) “I will retreat to my Abigail Adams mode.” A week later I received two letters from her. A few weeks later, I received an email that said “When I wrote on the computer I received notes from you and I’m missing some responses.” She pointed out the weakness of letter writing, to which email had the advantage. The latter was convenient and free, making a response easy and quick.
Over the years, I have been keeping a box of letters people have sent me, from Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitations 13 years ago, to wedding invitations and ridiculous post cards from Laura Lee’s travels this year. In that box I also keep note cards that I purchased 5 years ago, thinking I would be finished with them shortly thereafter. But then they invented the internet, email became ubiquitous, and we all began hyper-communicating with each other. Facebook came along and let us connect with all of our strong and loose connections culled over the years, enabling us to keep updated in one another’s lives. But, with all these tools, I find that the time between when I truly engage my friends, and when I speak to them again, grows larger and larger as the years pass. With all of these tools at our fingertips, we’ve somehow depersonalized our communication with each other to a few short messages, or a comment on eachother’s pictures.
Last night I opened my box of letters to figure out what I could do with these blank note cards. As I stared at them, I realized that with a fresh pack of stamps, and some free address labels, I could actually use them to write to some of my friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while. After all, snail mail has become such a novelty that it seems special, and an hour of my time to make several of my friends feel this way seemed well spent.
If you’ve forgotten how to write letters, I’ve outlined the steps below:
The best part of this process has been the responses I’ve received after emailing my friends for their snail mail addresses. Being in my mid-twenties, the first question is “Tabas! Are you getting married?”