When is the last time you received a thank-you note? How about a handwritten letter?
I stumbled across a column I wrote more than six years ago talking about how letter writing seemed to be a lost art. I mentioned that when two of our children came home from summer camp, I asked if they got the addresses of their new friends.
They assured me they did … but none of the addresses involved streets, cities or states.
All were e-mail addresses.
Well, if letter writing was a lost art then, today it’s a forgotten one. If you talk to people in their early 20s or younger, they may say they only check their personal e-mail if someone texts them and tells them to.
I love my computer and my cell phone as much as the next person, but there’s something sad about the all-but-lost handwritten letters, postcards and thank-you notes.
The reason I have re-entered the letter-writing world is because of Paul’s great aunt, Lyla.
Aunt Lyla was a bright spot in Paul’s life when he was a young child. Though she lived in Glastonbury, Conn., and Paul lived in northern Maine, she always made an effort to bring him to her home for the summer. While there, Paul said she completely spoiled him with gifts, toys, treats and clothes.
Although they had not seen or spoken to each other in many years, the two recently reconnected. This happened because Paul wrote her a letter.
She immediately responded with a long letter, overjoyed he had written. Paul even flew to Connecticut to visit her. Lyla still lives in the same house she did when Paul was a little boy.
The two of them stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and remembering their times together.
Lyla began writing letters to Paul and soon after to me. This lively 85-year-old woman is a firecracker.
Lyla is funny and witty and is a terrific storyteller. I hope I have half of her energy when I am her age (and I hope I make it to her age).
Fiercely independent, Lyla lives alone after her husband, Jim, died in 1990. She loves “Judge Judy” and listening to the radio.
Her other love definitely is writing. She even gave me a huge book she wrote about a true event; and let me tell you, it is as long as it is descriptive. She has another book too, which she promises she will let me read one day.
I love corresponding with Lyla for many reasons.
First of all, I haven’t looked forward to getting the mail in years. We only get a few bills (most we pay online), ads and a few other things. Now, at least twice a week, we get letters from Lyla.
She tells us what she has been doing, and she tells us stories about the family. It is all quite entertaining, and I have truly enjoyed getting to know this charming woman through pen and paper.
Reading Aunt Lyla’s letters does something else for me; it reminds me of a time when there was no such thing as instant and guaranteed communication with others. A time when you couldn’t just click a few buttons on a computer to find out what you wanted to know about someone. A time when you had to make the effort to get your thoughts across to someone else.
Lyla’s letters remind me that written correspondence does take longer, but it shows you took the time to sit down and really think about what you wanted to say.
In our high-tech, electronically-driven world, receiving letters and cards does take you aback. We’re all so used to e-mail you might be stunned to receive a card or letter.
For my older readers, I would encourage you to write a letter (or two) to your loved ones. Not a “farewell” letter, but a letter like the ones we receive from Lyla.
Just talk about what you are doing and thinking. I promise, your letters will be read and re-read, and they won’t be thrown away.
Instead, your letters will be cherished.
Mine go into a box marked, “Letters from Lyla.”
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at email@example.com.