Lonely days are gone, I’m a goin’ home, my baby just wrote me a letter.
(Wayne Carson Thompson)
Please, Mr. Postman, look and see
Is there a letter in your bag for me?
(Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland &Robert Bateman)
Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan.
The most popular guy on campus during my freshman year was a fellow named Teddy. He was a tall, blond, athletic looking senior resembling a generic, smiling Sports Illustrated cover athlete. When he walked into the Student Union Building at midday a chant would build . Ted-dy! Ted-dy! Ted-dy!!! We all would cheer. The girls loved him and so did the guys. Homecoming Kings and Queens had nothing on Teddy, who waded in pure unadulterated adulation. When Teddy disappeared behind a wall in our miniature SUB, within minutes envelopes magically appeared in our tiny designated mail crevices. Teddy held perhaps the most important work study position on campus. He was the keeper of the key to the delivery of money, package slips, love letters and out of love letters. God knows how many marijuana providers he provided commercial security to simply by ensuring that all those cards and letters containing checks or paper bearing the likeness of founders and dead presidents posted from unsuspecting parents and grandparents made it into the hands of the many still as yet unemployed freshmen. Teddy, by god, was contributing to a very important sector of the local campus economy. Entrepreneurs in this particular industry did not take too kindly to the idea of credit and in the rare instances that they did it was unlikely mom and dad’s health insurance would cover the damages should these particular types of premiums not be met. I can only imagine that such things have not changed in the intervening decades.
There is still residing deeply within me a certain exhilaration that can only come with the discovery of a pleasing parcel. Texts are utilitarian. They are best used as a form of immediate communication when a phone call might be intrusive to either the sender or the receiver. Phone calls are mundane, certain circumstances excepted there is nothing very special about them in this era of the omnipresent cell. But a letter, a posted assemblage of well meaning, well noted turns of phrase and colorful, heartfelt, sincere expressions has powers that the assorted universes of Marvel and DC alike combined cannot match. A letter can light the spirit and lighten the load . It can arouse even the most passionless. A single noun bumped up against the simplest verbs, by their very placing can deliver the most effectively devastating of messages designed to make the object of such a missive hunker down in a hole of their own choosing for a very long time. The satisfaction of such a note can deliver to the sender a remarkable feeling of achievement. This is particularly true of resignation letters delivered to former superiors who are otherwise undeserving of such sparkling prose.
Letters to me get opened immediately. More often than not they are digested right in front of the mailbox. Such is my hunger for them. Even junk mail gets a quicker perusal than what is in my ebox, as well as a more serious consideration before it gets junked.
I worked in a summer camp as a teenager. Twice before that, I was shipped off to Boy Scout camp. Even then the notion of mail call was the highlight of the day. It was more important than archery, arts and crafts, basketball, softball and swimming. And I loved swimming. At the time I was not so good about writing letters, but I always enjoyed getting them. As I grew, I came to realize that giving is even better than receiving. In fact, it enhances the receiving. But I will maintain a distance from all other instances of this principle and stick to the aspects of correspondence. The squirrel is my editor and his style is very PG.
My favorite letter writer always sends hers in a handwritten manner. And it can come on a variety of different paper sources. Her posts have come on napkins, recycled messages from various corporations, old utility bills, wrapping paper, and sources too innumerable to inventory here. As well as good old all American lined stationary. The point is, it never matters. Her handwriting is exquisite and the messages always, just by virtue of showing up, quicken my pulse. Her prose underscores a lush symphony of language and the figures inked to the paper are the sheet music. My letters to her are simply, the best I can do. My handwriting is Exhibit A in the prosecution of the theory that the nuns were always good at this type of instruction. Obviously, all those thousands of repetitions of writing “I will no longer blame my dog for eating my homework” did absolutely no good at all. Considering I didn’t even have a dog one has to consider the wisdom of such an excuse in the first place.
My handwritten letters tend to be shorter. I have a lot to say, but as bad as my handwriting is to begin with, it gets worse as my hand gnarls into a garlic knot of arthritic pain. So, I have learned that cards are great for short well thought out, cleverly phrased tid bits of passionate expression delivered cursive or printed style. In most cases a hardy combination of both actually. After a certain point the scrawl begins to resemble ancient Aramaic with a touch of petroglyph on the side. When I feel it necessary to express my oh so important thoughts in a more oh so coherent manner, and in need of more paper than the card can possibly provide, I do break down and use the computer. But, I do not send an email for messages of a certain enormity of meaning. At least not anymore, for I have been properly schooled in the bad form of this practice. I print them out, but they still get the benefit of a fitting envelope, proper postage and a return address.
Written correspondence not only provides access to the depths we must plumb when our souls require vivid expression to a degree ensuring we may be thoroughly “heard” but also, by its very nature, demands such expression. If one writes a heartfelt letter it is almost impossible to chicken out. One cannot hide behind banal catch phrases and clichés. No, one must avail oneself of all the words available to them and one must use them as jocularly, coherently, sympathetically, precisely, lovingly, heartrendingly, cuttingly and most of all passionately as humanely possible. Setting about a serious letter in a serious manner eliminates the prospect of choice in such matters because ultimately a serious letter must be seriously honest. Otherwise, why bother. Send an email. Make a phone call. If it really has no meaning, send a text.
Those we love deserve more from us from than complete submission to the digital age. Besides, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the USPS to meet their health and pension commitments 75 years in advance, no other business or government agency is required to do this. It is putting a strain on them and we all depend on the Postal Service for an array of services. The Post Office is actually constitutionally instituted in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 of the US Constitution even as nefarious political forces paid for by even more nefarious lobbying groups, seek to slash or compromise its services. So, Mr. or Ms. Patriot, you really want to make America great again? Send your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, just friend, ma, pa, grandma or grandpa, sister, brother, nephew, niece, neighbor, heck, even that homework eating dog a letter. I guarantee they will light up the next time they see you and you will be preserving, protecting and defending the constitution more effectively than just about any of the current crop of our elected officials.