Throughout my childhood and until I left home for college, every week, my grandmother wrote me a letter. I knew to expect these letters on Wednesdays, since mail from New York to California normally took three days and Nana dropped the letter in the mailbox on Monday morning on her way to Mass. When I was young and first learning to read, Nana carefully printed these letters for me even though handwriting was easier for her. The letters mentioned big and small events in the lives of my extended family on the other side of the country, asked me to pray for Nana’s particular friends, and reminded me of her love for me. Once I was living away from home, the letters continued, though they arrived with less frequency. I received a letter at least once a month until August 2002, when my Nana passed away at the age of eighty-one.
Because of Nana, I have an enduring love of handwritten letters. I think that they may well be my all-time favorite thing to read. Since I grew up far from any extended family in the age before email and Skype, letters were the primary way that my family kept in touch.
Nowadays, I can think of only two people who write me letters with any regularity—Nana’s brother, my great-Uncle Charlie, and one of my college roommates whose email address I don’t know. When I receive their letters, I find myself sinking into a chair and giving my undivided attention to their words—something I rarely do if I am on the phone or on the computer. Letters feel more personal to me than any other form of communication, as though I am privy to a page from someone’s journal that has been addressed especially to me.
Among the letters I’ve saved for rereading over the years are retreat letters (Live the Fourth!), letters from former students, and letters from various individuals whose words touch and inspire me still though the person may have faded from my life.
Tomorrow: Another love-ly read