Letter writing

I have always been a letter writer. As a child I wrote letters to my grandmother on wide-lined stationery with a scene of snow white printed on the top of each page. The seven dwarfs with coloured hats stood in a garden next to a cottage where Snow White leaned out of a window. The scene took up about a third of the page for which I was grateful, as I never really knew what to say to the old woman who lived far away and whose face I could not recall.

Later, I wrote letters to friends and found I had lots to say. Some were posted while others were passed furtively across a school desk, telling my best friend about some drama unfolding in my head. I wrote letters to boys I liked that were never posted. I spent hours agonising over the right words to use but in the end, they were scrunched into tight balls and thrown into the wastepaper basket. I was doubly frustrated when I not only missed revealing my feelings to the boy du jour but missed the bin as well.

In my twenties I began to travel and collected friends around the world. The friendships were intense, and we talked for hours about the state of the world, books we were reading and courses we took at university. Phone calls were expensive, so we wrote – sometimes daily, on light blue aerograms which were as thin as tissue paper and cheap to send. I bought aerograms by the dozen, franked and ready to send. I modified my messy script so I could fit more onto the page and once I folded and licked the three sides to seal the letter, I sometimes added a P.S. under my address on the outside.

My letters began to be more sporadic in my thirties as I worked, commuted, and eventually had a child. Phone calls became cheaper and for a while, I alternated writing letters with a call every now and again. The letters arriving in my letter box became less frequent too, as my friends took on responsibilities and our yearly trips stretched to two, five or more years. With the arrival of email, we promised we would write more often but this never eventuated. Email doesn’t have the same impact as retrieving a handwritten envelope from the letter box and tearing it open to reveal a letter to hold in both hands. A letter is to be savoured, to be read and reread, shown to a friend or two and kept safe.

After years of neglect, I have started writing letters again. Letters to my 91 year-old mother-in-law who cannot hear me on the phone, letters to friends in lock-down and the occasional letter to old friends overseas. I haven’t tried to buy an aerogram for years and don’t know whether they still exist. I have, however, tracked down an alternative on thicker paper with a prettier cover that folds and gums just like aerograms did. Maybe letter writing is making a comeback the way vinyl records have done. I feel a pang of nostalgia as I write on this paper and love that I have to keep my message brief. The recipient of my letter must carefully cut open the sides to reveal that which I have shared within.

Rereading old letters, I come to understand their real purpose. Much more than simply an exchange of information, they are a testament to the bond of friendship nurtured over the years.

7 thoughts on “Letter writing”

  1. Early morning message, not every day but the uncertainty adds to the savour. Some times a v.rendes blog is waiting to be read. What a pity ‘blog’ is such an ugly word for they are always a treat to be enjoyed before the world rattles it’s armour. Dogs let out then fed, maybe fire stoked then coffee made and a peaceful moment to enjoy it.
    Thank you for giving such a delicious start to the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully put Viktoria, that last sentence resonated with me so much. I used to write and write and write, and I have kept all the letters that I have been sent. I have one friend whom I still send occasional aerograms to, they are more sturdy these days that they were before. Have you heard of the book, ‘Dear Lupin,’ at all? It’s a book of letters send by an eccentric English father to his very wayward son, in the 60s or 70s, they are so very funny, hugely enjoyable. I do miss getting a real letter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s true…I keep letters and postcards and even cards …it is a shame they are replaced by emails…definitely not the same,…I enjoyed reading Your contemplation on this and loved the description of yr letters to grandma …what to say indeed ..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved reading this – some letters have been so important to me. Alas, I rarely write letters now. Your piece reminds to send a letter to my love friend Jean in lockdown because she is hard of hearing xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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