What an outdated and amazingly interesting thing to do. This week I got letters from two of my granddaughters who live in Australia. They both had issues with classmates. A couple of weeks before that, their sister had written to say how precious Dad was being with his new truck. Their letters are a moment of time and a tiny, preserved piece of their growing personalities that are being shaped by the events in their lives. And they are precious gifts because I know it takes time to write a letter and when you’re young it’s often easier to do something else.
Letter writing is not for the spontaneous. It needs a lot of follow through. Not only do you require stamps and envelopes but also time to write and something to write on – which was what I ran out of last week. I visited the stationery shop in the Arts Centre sure I’d get some new and beautiful paper, but even they had empty shelves. I could see why. On a weekday in the middle of the day Pepe’s Stationery was full of people touching the beautiful papers and thinking of reasons to buy it.
Everyday emails and random tweets don’t generally create a lot to look back on. By their very nature they are hasty and easily deleted. Letters tend to last. I read Gramps’ leaf he wrote on when he was in Gallipoli (another paper snob), and not so long ago found a letter from my childhood friend who’d moved away from our district. She was asking which of the Beatles was my favourite. (I never could decide but it certainly wasn’t Ringo.)
Perhaps blogs and websites will provide the future with the same sort of information once gained from diaries and letters, but I doubt it. I’m never going to ask after relatives, complain about the price of butter or wet the pages of my computer. Letters are real life and nothing is more real than some new kid at school, looking at your work all day.