Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Surrender of the Letter

I've been thinking - when you're beginning to look like an eccentric silly old woman to the young set in your family it's time to make some changes.  I think I'm starting to look that way because I've persisted in sending them postal mail - maybe not frequently, but regularly.  And I have wondered why a letter in the mail doesn't thrill them like it thrilled me in my youth.

Why were letters so thrilling when I was young?  Because they were the only line of communication, of course.  No, I wasn't born before the telephone was in common use, but long distance calls were costly, and so the only way to communicate inexpensively was the postal service.  I suppose I still like letters because they bring back memories of the excitement I always felt when Daddy came home from the post office with letters from far-off relatives.

You learned about deaths and catastrophies via a long distance call, so you could count on a letter to have happy news or at least the news of everyday life.  Letters were often saved - sometimes in pretty old hat boxes or attractive candy boxes after the candy was gone.  It wasn't unusual for them to be passed down to the next generation.  A lot of family histories have been preserved in letters.  In fact, a lot of our nation's history has been passed down in letters.

But today a letter is hardly a blip on any young person's radar screen.  And - now that I think about it - why should it be?  We all communicate by text now.  Even e-mail is outmoded for personal communication.  As fast as a thought comes into our heads, we can communicate it to someone else and they receive it instantaneously.  No wonder today's youth view letters as unneccessary or even annoying.  No doubt I'd feel the same if I had grown up in this hi-tech age.  

So I've decided to surrender to technology and discontinue postal mail to the young set.  When you have to text to inquire if a letter was received two or three weeks after it was mailed, it's time to make a change. I'll continue to write to my old friends - or, to be more precise - to my friends who are old.  They have the same thrilling postal memories that I have.