Folks have often wondered where I got the letter writing “bug.” All I can say is, “It was in my blood.”
To set the stage, I was born at a time when long-distance phone calls were still expensive (long before those call-all-you-want-for-one-fixed-price plans). So, letters were the best way for kids without jobs to keep in touch. In the days before the internet, we shared pictures, jokes, clippings, and other ephemera with our friends and family via the mail. This was the era before spam email when people had to photocopy copies (of copies) of chain letters, recipes, political rants, and racy jokes to share them with one another. It was more work than today’s email versions, but we did it anyway!
And I lived in the country, with few neighbors and practically no other kids to play with. In this context, letters from elsewhere took on a bit of a magical quality. They were contact from “out there in the real world.”
Given all this, I was fertile ground for the seed of letter writing and this seed was planted at an early age by both of my grandmothers.
My dad’s mom always wanted to own a card and stationery shop (an unfulfilled dream she must have bequeathed to me) and was an avid letter writer. She would write back, a very reinforcing gift to a budding letter writer!
But it was my mom’s mom who really fostered my love of sending and receiving letters and packages. She worked at the post office, so she would send little notes with regularity. She was also renowned for her care packages full of random fun. I vividly recall a St. Patrick’s day themed package that came with a headband sporting glittered, bobbling shamrocks, a box of green Jell-O, lots of candy, and oddly enough, pairs of green underwear. Anything green made the cut! As a young adult, I began to carry on this tradition, sending similar themed packages to folks for birthdays or just to cheer them up. I knew the power such packages had!
My mom’s mom also introduced me to stamp collecting. I haven’t talked about that much on here yet, but will share some of my favorites from my collection on future posts. I remember seeing the first-day-issue cancellations my grandmother collected for my grandfather and thinking how special they seemed–printed with his name, mounted on a card explaining the stamp’s history and meaning, and then carefully placed inside a plastic protective covering and kept in a binder for safe keeping. Stamp collecting involved history, art, organizing, and a flair of adventure. I was in love!
So, you see, I was just an innocent victim. This outrageous love for pens, letters, packages, stamps, and all things snail mail that I harbor was foisted upon me. Now that the world has moved on to faster forms of communications, I can’t abandon this birthright of mine. It’s part of my family history and I plan on preserving this tradition as long as I can. And I’m busy inculcating a younger generation just as my grandmothers did.
That’s what you’re supposed to do with traditions.