BY JOSELYN SMITH-GREENE
A short time ago at an estate sale, I saw a woman excited at the sight of a bunch of handwritten letters. Quickly, she grabbed them. I didn’t get it. How could these unrelated letters be of any significance to anyone other than the sender and the sendee?
This experience prompted me to revisit a box of letters that I had saved. Many of them were written by my childhood friend, Patricia, and my college friend, Loretta. The exchange between Patricia and I began when I went away to college and she was in her senior year of high school. Loretta and I attended Rhode Island College together. Our letter exchange occurred during school breaks and summers. After I transferred to a different school in my junior year, our letter writing escalated. Long distance calling was cost prohibitive in the late 70’s while a stamp cost a mere 13 cents; writing letters was the affordable way to keep in touch with distant friends and family.
Each letter was a continuation of their life’s story. As I read them, they were an immediate relief, and a short distraction from the frenzied college life. Some were quite lengthy, some were written over multiple days, and some required a second read to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. All, however, warranted a return letter, with the hope that a letter waiting in their mailboxes would uplift their day as well.
I had a blast rereading their letters, laughing and shaking my head with more feeling and genuineness than any present day LOL’s and SMH’s. So when Patricia recently mentioned that she had little recollection of her college years, I immediately thought to myself, “I can fix that!” And so I did. I returned the letters she had written me, thereby gifting her, her younger self.
I had the pleasure of gifting both Patricia and Loretta the letters they had written me all those years ago. They are the most special gifts that I have ever given anyone. Since they cannot be duplicated or monetized, their value is beyond measure. I’m glad I kept their letters, a handwritten, informal memoir about everything they were thinking, feeling, and doing in their own words, documented by them.
With a simple touch of a key today, we send digital communications off to linger in the abyss of cyberspace. It is difficult to re-experience an email. But tangible letters can so quickly bring back a distant joy. They are precious evidence of the lives we live.
You can find more from Joselyn on her site: http://meaningfulremnants.com.