I have a birthday coming up later this month and have received some cards already. The best thing about these cards is that they contain letters; I do so love to receive letters. In these days of instant communication and prolific use of social media a personal letter is a rare treat, especially when it is my only contact with acquaintances who are uncomfortable with sharing details of their lives on line. Although I would welcome more regular contact, these occasional updates are appreciated.
Most of the personal letters that I receive are from family members. My parents do not own a computer and I dislike talking on the telephone. We have been corresponding regularly since I moved to England twenty- five years ago. These days I word process my missives and print them off in a large, clearly spaced font as my mother’s eyesight is failing. She would probably like it if I wrote to her more regularly than I do. However often I wrote this would probably be the case.
When I was growing up I loved to write letters. I had many pen pals and, every few weeks, I would craft pages of rambling prose about my life for them to read. Perhaps this was the precursor to my blog.
Today I received letters from my brother and his wife who live on the other side of the world. Although (or perhaps because) my brother has worked with computers for much of his adult life, he will not sign up to any social media sites. The letters that we exchange at Christmas and birthdays are now our only form of contact. He left our parent’s home when I was a young child so my view of him has been gained largely through this correspondence. I sometimes wonder how well we know each other at all; I guess the same could be said about anyone though.
In his letter my brother told me that he has recently celebrated his thirtieth wedding anniversary. His wife seems so lovely and I regret that I have not had the opportunity to get to know her better. She shares my brother’s mistrust of social media but is also kind enough to write the occasional letter to me. They both write of the same experiences but in very different ways. A letter can be a window to a personality, but only through a glass darkly.
A lovely young lady, who is the daughter of a good friend of mine, also sends me a letter from time to time. I would love to get to know her better but value the communication that we have. One of the attractions of Tumblr is that it allows me to gain a better understanding of the next generation. It is too easy for us oldies to mix only with their peers. How are we to support young people with the issues that they must face if we do not have any understanding of the lives they must live?
Sitting down to write a letter takes more time and discipline than a few lines on a social network. A letter is crafted for the recipient whereas a status update is offered to a crowd. I do not gain the same pleasure from writing letters that I once did, perhaps because I write of myself in so many other ways now. I am still more comfortable corresponding than talking though. I find it hard to express myself as I would wish with the spoken word.
Communication with others is so valuable yet each of us harbours different preferences for achieving this sociability. I will read and reread the letters that I receive but can only interpret the information contained therein based on my own experiences. Conveying an intended message with words is an art form; perhaps that is why so many shy away from it.
Although the letters that I receive cannot show me the entirety of the writer, they can open up a side of them that others may not see. Our personal writing style can be as individual as our character, multifaceted and full of a curious ambiguity.
We can never fully get to know and understand another individual, not least because new experiences are constantly changing how we think and feel. The occasional snapshots offered by a letter are still of value. They are a reaching out that tells us we are thought of; a sharing of highlights offered for our delectation. A letter does not invade our time and space but may be enjoyed at our leisure.
I hope that there will always be those who are willing to write to me; the consideration offered is appreciated as much as the update.