Tuesday, December 27

A Lost Art

It has been said that letter writing is a lost art.

I am, however sadly, inclined to agree. Just typing this blog post is another step away from picking up a pen, choosing a pretty piece of stationary and sitting down to craft a note. This does not mean however that I have lost appreciation for handwritten correspondence, and I still pick up the pen on a regular basis.

My Grandparents can not even get internet service at their homestead, and even though I can call, it still makes Grandma's day to get a card or letter from me in the mail with pictures of the kids. There is a time and a place for the written word, not the typed.

My fascination with actual penmanship most likely comes from my intense interest in genealogy. Anyone who researches family histories knows that the best find is the one in the ancestors own handwriting. Diaries and journals are gold. A signature on a deed, a letter from France in 1918, a list of children born written in the family Bible.

To see the handwriting of the person, the imperfections in the letters, the shaking word structure, the slight slant at the end of the last name - these things tell so much about a person. My Grandfathers handwriting was shaky and his letters home from Italy in 1944 to my Grandmother at home were few and far between. A letter between courting young people then but priceless to me now, a Granddaughter who was stupid and too busy being a teenager when I should have been listening to and learning from Grandpa. And Grandma now all but gone with dementia. That they took the time to write means the world to me.

I have searched for documents in musty town offices and written to historical societies all over the country in order to see things like my Great Great Great Grandfathers declaration of why he left Europe for the United States - he was "fleeing Napoleon." Why is it that when we see someones handwriting, it makes them so much more real to us?

I love picking up a good pen and scratching a letter on a thick piece of stationary. The thicker, the better. The richness of it and the smell and the sound the pen makes on it - to be using it almost seems wrong. Like you should save the paper, untouched in its original box, like the wedding silver and the good lace tablecloth. To be using it binds you to write something epic. Something meaningful and with emotion and purpose.

Isn't that what letters are supposed to be? Heartfelt messages to someone who is cared for? Not just a text message - "Thanx 4 the B-day $$."

Getting a letter means something to me. It means that someone took the time. But time seems to be in short supply today. People can't even be bothered to get off the cell phone when they are using the restroom at the mall, let alone sit down to write a sentence or two.

This is why I do agree that it is a lost art. I believe that I am in the minority when it comes to those who send out thank you letters written with a fountain pen. There was a time when this was common place. When things were a little calmer, a little more quiet and, it seems, there was something worth taking the time to say.

This feather is a pencil. A pencil!

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