I wrote a letter tonight for the first time since, well, sometime in college. Just a letter. Not a card, not a notecard, an actual letter on actual stationery. I had to dig the stationery out of a box in the closet in my guest room, but I found it, dusted it off, and sat down to begin my letter.
I had no idea how to start. I wrote the date, then "Dear George," then I stopped and stared at the paper for a good five minutes. The whole exercise was like recalling a memory that I could sort of put a finger on but not exactly. I thought of all the different ways I could begin, thought about typing it up first then writing what I typed, then decided to throw caution to the wind and just write what came to mind.
I read an interview once with Charles D'Ambrosio that talked about how he still in this day and age prefers handwritten letters to emails. Two reasons: first, he enjoyed seeing the handwriting and imagining the person to whom it belonged; second because people tend to take more time with letter writing, rather than just "shooting off" an email to say something random. I remember sitting on my steps when I was in junior high during the summer reading my book and waiting for the mailman to drive by. I'd write letters to my friends from camp and the day after I mailed the letter would start my daily vigil, even though I knew I couldn't have a letter yet.
Did I mention I was a terrible letter writer? My grandma always asked me for letters, always wanted me to write and say anything. She said they didn't need to be long, she just liked them. When we were going through her things earlier this year and this summer, I found letters that I "wrote" her before I was old enough to write. I had scrawled some lines on a piece of paper somewhat resembling the shape of my name and my mom would address the envelope and mail it off. I know she kept every letter I sent her and I was both surprised and saddened by the number of letters I found. I reread them and sensed the feeling of obligation I felt as I wrote them. Too busy with college papers, with friends, drinking, television, everything else. I wrote more letters to my grandma than I did to anyone else, and it still doesn't seem like it was enough.
I wish we could go back to writing letters. I don't remember the last one I received, even, except there's a pretty large part of me that's certain it was from my grandma.