The lost art of letter writing

Nov 11, 2011 | On Being Positive

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Lynne Tapper

I am a lifelong endurance athlete with the dual goal of training and racing until my bones turn to dust and sharing that passion with as many people as possible.

Today was a great day.  And I’m not saying that just because it was 11.11.11.  Although, I have to say that’s pretty great too.  Leland is really into doing something on these “special numerological” days and insisted that we do something to commemorate the day.  How could I begrudge him? He’s been so absolutely amazing throughout the past week, the past 10 months once we made the decision, and mostly the past 13 years!  For some reason, at 11:00 am, my mother, Peter (her very significant other), Janice, Susan, Leland and I were all at our house.  At Leland’s urging, we all posed for a creative photo in our backyard. Take a look, 11:11 am on 11.11.11.  Yes, we do have a lot of time on our hands.

L-R, Lynne, Susan, Janice, Liz, and Peter

The other thing that made this day great was a visit from Susan (Edinberg) Mack.  We have known each other since we were born.  Actually, since before Susan was born as I have seen a photo of me as a 6-week old and she was still in her mother’s belly.

Anyway, she drove from Holden, MA to spend the day with me. We had decided months ago that she would visit during my recovery and we would sort through, organize and file my 2 plastic bins full of letters, postcards, and other missives that I have saved since as far back as 1976!  Many of them were from her, so it would be fun to reminisce.

There were times when we were laughing so hard I was afraid my sutures would split open. I only cried once (when I read a letter from my dear, departed Aunt Ruth written in 1981).  Mostly it was just fascinating to see how people from all parts of my past expressed themselves at various points in their lives.

It was a window into my rich life.  During this day, I saw: camp letters, notes passed back and forth during high school, my acceptance letter from Connecticut College, hundreds of letters to and from elementary, high school, and college friends, missives from cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, and even my sister I-don’t write-letters-Eve.  I stumbled upon a typed postcard from my grandfather Lou Pulda.

Letter writing is sadly a lost art (and it is really an art, from the way someone addressed an envelope to the very unique style of their handwriting).  It is rare that anyone communicates like this anymore.  It is sad to think how my children won’t have this body of communication to look back on.  Even if they keep all their texts and emails, they all pretty much look the same.

While Susan and I were sorting, laughing, and reminiscing, we lost power again (I am NOT joking).  This didn’t stop us for one bit.  We just powered through (no pun intended, since we used our brand new LED lantern to read as the sun started to set) and organized them by category or person, and then filed them in boxes so that I can be systematic about reading through them.

The inside says “Oh, I see you’ve already gotten it.”

I thought I’d share a few highlights:

I got this birthday card from my friend (on-again-off-again boyfriend as well) John.  It is truly prescient. See photo to left! We laughed for 10 minutes. Every now and then, we’d go back to this card and laugh again.

An excerpt from a letter from my father on July 19, 1979 (to camp)
“Your last paragraph about camp being fun sometimes is very much like the way life is. Sometimes fun and exciting and sometimes downright boring and a little sad. But always, if you want it to be, challenging, creative and unusual. And I think you are always going to be challenged and creative because of your wonderful curiosity about people and things. Love you, love you! Daddy.”

An excerpt from a letter from my aunt Ruth Pulda, July 9, 1981 (to camp)
“Did Grandpa call you with the good news about Harriet and Allan’s baby? Of course, we are all so excited. So another nephew to add to my collection of nieces and nephews. I hope I like his clothes so he can hand them down to me!! By the way, is anyone in your cabin outgrowing a pair of size 5 white shoes? I need a pair!”

I could go on and on, but will spare you.  I’m am so glad I kept these treasures for so many reasons.  For the three hours that Susan and I went through these letters, I forgot about the surgery. I forgot about the pain.   I was completely immersed in my past and how it has made me the person that I am today.  Reading these letters transported me back to a simpler time.  I even found one of the earliest cards that Leland sent me (“Never mistake a black crayon for a Tootsie roll”).  This archive was a piece of loving evidence of the friends and family I have supporting me, which I’ve been reminded of throughout this journey.  But, it also cemented for me, even more, how important it was that I did this.  Whatever form of communication we have in 40 years, I want to be here to “read it” and laugh, smile, and maybe even shed a tear.

Reading the letters

Making progress and piles

Even with the power out, we kept going!


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