In the weeks since columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote about the U.S. Postal Service's move to close mail-processing centers and post offices because people weren't sending as much mail, she says she has been buried in letters.
“I have nothing important to say,” Ron Mukai began his letter to me. “I’m just trying to save the post office.”
He wasn’t alone. In the weeks since I wrote a column about the U.S. Postal Service’s move to close mail-processing centers and post offices because people weren’t sending as much mail, I have been buried in letters.
And happily so. I received drugstore stationery and thick stock from Crane’s. I received cards made from photographs and sample pages from a novel Michael Rothwell is working on. Some handwriting should be made into official type fonts. (That’s you, Cat Saunders, Cass Seely and Carole Ecob!) Charles Anderson sent me a postcard from 1892, and the Kelly family sent me one of their masterfully handmade New Year’s cards, featuring Dolly Parton and a goat.
It was no surprise that the bulk of the letters came from older folks, people for whom email may not be a regular thing or, if it is, haven’t forgotten the impact a letter can make.
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They shared my reverence for a proper, handwritten thank-you note and my belief that letters are the key to our hearts and histories; a certain intimacy that texts and Facebook updates will never match.
“We have become clipped in our speech patterns, fragmented in our thoughts and multi-tasked to the max,” wrote Meisha Ensign, of Maple Valley. “A personal, written letter slows us down, bringing us back to caring — and it’s a beautiful place to be!”
Other people pointed out the history that letters preserve.
Mary Heckel (“86 and counting!”) of Seattle told me of having a “treasured letter” written by an uncle to her father, outlining the funeral arrangements he had been making for their mother. The letter contained a sample of fabric and lace from the dress they were having made for her, and tallied the expenses of making her coffin.
The context may have been solemn, but the letter is still a “treasure,” Heckel wrote. “A piece of our family history.”
Daisy Demucha, 90, of Tumwater, Thurston County, has had the same three pen pals for 70 years. Seven zero.
“Just because we now live in an electronic age,” she wrote, “does not mean we should all be e-mailers.”
Letters can soothe, as well.
Charles Anderson, of Renton, once served as a pastor at a church in Issaquah. He recalled reading a newspaper story about a young woman killed in a bus crash while on a missionary trip to Mexico. He wrote to the girl’s mother, and received a letter back.
“She thanked me and said my letters and comments had been a comfort to her,” Charles wrote.
He has kept letters from loved ones, and has postcards that his father sent to his mother during World War I.
Diane Merrill told me of the huge box she has of letters from her mother, including one that consisted of one sentence that covered an entire sheet of paper.
“A rambling sentence to be sure,” Diane wrote, “but perfectly punctuated, using colons, semicolons, commas, dashes, parentheses, and one period — at the end.
“I treasure it,” Merrill wrote, “and her sly creativity.”
Charlotte Parkinson, of North Bend, worries that handwriting may become extinct — and what a loss that would be.
Her husband, Norman, died four years ago, and whenever Parkinson comes across his signature, it comforts her.
“I run my fingers over it, kiss it and shed a few tears,” she wrote. “It is as beautiful as he was.”
Then there was Caitlin Moorleghen, who sent an email about her boyfriend, Peter. He was known for sending postcards that he created from newspaper clippings and pictures from old books.
“He sent little bits of himself out into the world all the time,” Caitlin wrote. “Whether they were to his family in Seattle when he had just moved to San Francisco, or to his father living in China,” Caitlin wrote. “I know it was so awesome receiving a postcard from Peter.”
After he died in a motorcycle accident last December at age 24, friends and loved ones gathered all his postcards together and turned them into a book that they gave to his mother.
“It is really cool to see all the places all over the world that his energy was able to reach,” Caitlin wrote, “even if he wasn’t able to go there in his lifetime.”
So maybe, Ron Mukai, your letter did say something important. Letters are about more than saving the post office. They’re about saving parts of ourselves.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.