Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Please Mr. Postman

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My mother and I were into genealogy.  We spent many hours in county offices lifting huge dusty books full of birth, marriage, and death certificates, wills and real estate information and even more hours walking old forgotten cemeteries.

This Saturday one of the chores that took us away from the opening day of fishing was #2 daughter and I sanding down a dresser we bought at the thrift store.  Hidden behind the one drawer was a letter.  

The letter is dated April 27, 1982.   Twenty cents was the cost of a stamp back then that carried this letter from a daughter to her mother.   It was full of information on the daughter, her husband and their two children….asking about siblings that had recently moved away from home…discussing the weather…and oddly enough the first day of trout season.

For a genealogist this has a bunch of clues...where the daughter was living, where the parents were living, the names of the children so you knew their sex and clues to their ages, siblings names – one of which was going into the Army.

Most of our present day correspondence is done on line via email, social media sites or cell phone text messages.  There will be no letters to make the ancestors that the future genealogists is searching for more personable or to maybe see a side of a relative you didn’t know was there.  Instead of a love letter one’s great grandfather wrote to his future bride, they might find a place on line with ” I heart U”.  Somehow it doesn’t have the same ambiance.   

 Amazingly enough this mother and daughter lived less than three hours apart.  I remember instate calls use to cost more than interstate which is what probably prompted the letter...frugality something else long lost.  

On April 27, 1982 I was getting on my first plane for my senior class trip to Florida.  I remember buying post cards and mailing them knowing I would be home before they were!   I have sent cards but the last letter I wrote was to my uncle sending him new genealogical information and asking him more questions.  I wrote that letter over a year ago.  

There are days when I believe that as much as we have gained with modern technology we have left something so much bigger and more substantial behind.

When was the last time you wrote a letter?


SarDee said...

Do "thank you" cards count?!?! :) If so then I just sent some of those and I have more to go... but an actual letter? That's harder to remember. The irony is that I encourage my 5 year old son to write to his cousin who lives 10 miles away but I never write letters. It is one of the mysteries of life that we get such joy from receiving mail but we don't ever send it anymore. It is a lost art! Maybe you have given me and some others the kick we needed to start writing letters again.... but it sure is cheaper to send an e-mail when the internet is already paid for.

cyndy said...

What a fun thing to discover the letter!

And yes, sort of sad to think about the future of "letters".

I just sent 3 letters over to Europe this week..searching for my long lost (behind the iron curtain) family relatives. I am hopeful, but doubtful about replies...but I keep trying, and encourage you to do the same with your uncle!


Linda said...

What a beautiful post! You are so right about technology. For everything gained, something is lost. The last letter I wrote was to my uncle after my favorite aunt (my godmother) passed away in 1996. I wrote of all the memories I had of her and him and my cousins since I was very young and the cousins were babies. I spent a lot of time at their home and babysat at lot. He was so thrilled with my letter, he showed his 3 sons. They all agreed they couldn't believe I remembered all I did. He wrote me a letter back (which I still have) thanking me so much; that I had eased his pain and sorrow more than I could know. Now that's something that will always be in my heart -- not my "inbox". Thank you, Judy.