So many days you passed me by
See the tears standin’ in my eyes
You didn’t stop to make me feel better
By leavin’ me a card or a letter
Please Mister Postman, look and see
If there’s a letter in your bag for me
Over the past six weeks, while recovering from my bilateral mastectomy, I’ve become addicted to Home and Garden TV (HGTV) and I’ve watched a lot of movies. Last week I watched the movie Safe Haven.
Safe Haven is a cute, predictable story of a girl trying to escape a violent husband, takes refuge in a cute little small town, meets new guy (who is mourning the loss of his wife) and falls in love, they break up then reunite, and the angry husband finds her, tries to kill her and ends up dead.
There were, however, two redeeming qualities. First, Josh Duhamel is easy on the eyes, and second, I loved the letter he gives her at the end of the movie from his dead wife telling the new girl that she approves of their relationship.
It wasn’t what the letter said that I loved, it was the letter itself. A real letter, hand-written on cream-colored stationary. Turns out, the dead wife wrote lots of them before she died – for her husband and each of her children. If I knew I was going to die, I’d do the exact same thing.
Since watching the movie I’ve begun to feel nostalgic about the olden days, about the letters we wrote to distant friends, relatives and pen-pals (someone who lived in a foreign country – you found them listed in Tiger Beat magazine – mine lived in Africa). It was how we communicated back then, and a letter really meant something. Seeing the person’s handwriting scrawled onto the page, you could just picture them sitting at their desk, pen in one hand and your recent letter in the other, as they crafted their responses to your questions and shared all the latest news.
For those of you under the age of 30, this is probably a foreign concept (unless your great, great, great grandmother is still alive), but picture this: Your mother drives you to the store to pick out your very own stationary. The store has a distinct smell about it—like the smell of handouts in grade school that came straight off the mimeograph machine—only different. The shelves are stocked with thick, crisp pages that come in pale blue, pink or green, or just a simple cream. And there are envelopes to match.
After making your selection, you race home and carefully craft a letter to your grandmother in Cleveland that might look something like this:
How are you? I am fine. School is going good. My favorite subject is math. I got 100% on my last test!
Our dog Pretzel had puppies last week. Three of them. They are real cute. I want to keep one but Mom says no.
Well, I have to go now. Write soon!
After writing the letter, you fold it in half, slip it into the envelope and lick it shut. After addressing the envelope and slapping on a stamp, you run down to the corner, pull open the slot of the Big Blue Box (also known as a Mail Box), drop your letter in and let go of the handle. Then you pull open the slot again just to make sure that your letter actually descended into the belly of the box.
And then you do the math. You know it will take three days before Grandma gets the letter, and three more for the return delivery plus a day or two for recipient to write a reply.
A week later you begin stalking the mailman until he rewards you with a letter. You fly up the stairs, slam your bedroom door shut, hop onto your bed and slowly peel open the flap. Then you pull out the letter and smell it (sometimes Grandma sprays perfume on the letter). You read it, twice, and your lips curl upward. You might not even like your Grandma that much, but that matters not at all. The letter is special, because it was written just for you.
Why, you might ask, wouldn’t I just pick up the phone (the kind that hung on the wall and had a cord) and call Grandma instead? Good question. The answer is that a 10 minute long-distance phone call when I was growing up cost about as much a brand spanking new Buick. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating just a wee bit, but you get the point.
I miss a lot about the olden days, and getting letters in the mail ranks right up there. I miss the feel and smell of the thick, pale pink stationary (my favorite), I miss the trips to the mail box, and I miss stalking the mailman. I miss how special I felt every time I got a letter. Even the one’s from Grandma.
What do you miss most from your childhood?
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