When they started talking about the US Postal Service stopping Saturday delivery a while ago, my first thought was how medieval, the US is supposed to be a developed country and this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. I was kind of embarrassed for America, actually. It’s like you can see the holes in her socks. Poor thing.
And then I felt slightly guilty too because most of my communications are electronic now, like everybody else’s, and maybe that’s why the PO is in a bind. Not that I was ever a huge letter writer, but you know.
I abandoned Christmas cards years ago, though I held out longer than most I think. I did have a real-mail correspondence with my high school French teacher that lasted about 30 years. We sent each other Christmas cards and letters every year, and sometimes we exchanged notes in between. Maggie. An extraordinary woman. She saved my life, I loved her, and I wanted to keep thanking her forever.
In the year or two after I got to Paris I sent my nephew in California things like castles made of card stock that he could put together and knights on horses and a foam Eiffel Tower to build, but then the novelty of Paris wore off and he was getting too old for that kind of thing anyway.
I’ve been trying to send my 92 year-old grandmother more mail. I’ve sent her notes and printouts of my Instagram pictures, a couple clippings from glossy European fashion and decorating magazines that showed a scarf and a rug made of granny squares so my grandmother, the crochet queen, who can no longer crochet because of arthritis, would know they’d made a comeback in sophisticated circles, which of course meant she was very hip.
I will mail her something today. (Thanks for reminding me.) I’ll send my mom something too. I mail her a postcard every time I go to a museum or exhibit because she gets sole credit for teaching me to appreciate culture from a young age. I’ll send my mother-in-law something too. She very recently lost her husband and is having a rough go of it.
Reach out and touch someone, right?
So the post office is dying and we should mail people more things in order to save Saturday delivery and jobs and because sending people notes and things is a nice thing to do. Of course, mail isn’t very environmentally correct. But some things, like letters to Grandma, are important. So cancel a few of your catalogs and magazines and offset your carbon. Question of priorities.
I’m writing this because this week, a literary magazine I follow on Twitter launched this great project, Letters for Kids, in which well-known authors of children’s fiction mail a monthly letter to kids. I thought I might sign my nephew up.
And then I got to thinking, because of Maggie and my grandmother, and my mom and my mother-in-law, that there should be something like this for seniors. I thought for 15 seconds about organizing it myself. Then I thought others would be in a better position to do it. It should be done in any case. I will give it some more thought.
And that brought me to HOOT, the “mini” literary magazine I went bonkers for this year and wrote about in a HuffPo article in which I recount the sad story of my first chain letter experience. I subscribed immediately and also chided the editors for not having a better order form that would let me buy gift subscriptions for multiple people at once.
And that made me think of Postagram, which I mentioned in my HuffPo article, but had never used. I just downloaded the iPhone app and in a matter of minutes sent postcards of some of my Instagram pics to a bunch of people (including myself, to see the product). First five were free. Bonus! Not terribly personal, you might say, but more so than many of the tools we use to reach out today. What’s really cool is that the pictures pop out of the postcards. Anyway, I’m sold.
In early 2010, I got a fat envelope in the mail, the kind of thing that usually comes as a pleasant surprise. But it was from Maggie’s daughter, Gina, whom I didn’t know, and it contained a letter letting me know Maggie had passed away. With it were copies of the eulogy and a poem Gina and her brother and sister had written and read at the memorial, the program, some pictures… And a puka shell necklace that had belonged to Maggie in Hawaii in the 70s, when she was my teacher, when she saved me, when puka shells were all the rage.
In the letter, Gina told me that Maggie had kept all the letters and cards I’d ever sent to her in a folder labeled “Sunshine.”
So go ahead and grab those pretty cards and envelopes next time.