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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Filtering by Tag: love

The One Who Wrote Back • Jim Landwehr

Brett Rawson

2016-02-19 17.14.55 copy.jpg

BY JIM LANDWEHR

It was writing that brought us together. 

In 1986, I moved from my hometown of St. Paul Minnesota to Waukesha, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee for a new job. My brother Rob was also living away from home as a student in upstate New York. He and I wrote for a period of time and in one of his letters to me, he included letters from three of his female friends on his dorm floor. He’d told them I had just moved to Waukesha and didn’t really know anyone and that he thought it would brighten my spirits to receive some letters from them.

I don't remember exactly what each of the three had to say. Most of the letters were introductory in nature and seemed like honest attempts to be nice and cure me of my homesick loneliness. They were all away from their families as well, and we were all close in age, so had music, books and college life in common to talk about.

I was, of course, flattered that 3 women would take the time to write, so I wrote each of them individual letters back. Only one wrote back. 

For a year and a half.

Donna and I became 20th century pen pals of sorts. This was before the age of e-mail, faxes, texting and Skype. Long distance calls were expensive. Postage for a letter was about a quarter.

So we wrote, and we wrote, and we wrote. Short letters, long letters, letters about the trials of college and a new job, and roommates, and philosophy and religion, family, music, and books. We shared joys, concerns, doubts, beliefs and bad jokes. I sometimes took my writing to silly mediums like writing on napkins or the back of maps, just to keep it interesting. One of the things I recall her liking was my "Random Observations" which covered most subjects under the sun. Near the end of our writing things got a little spicier and flirtatious, neither of us knowing what the other would think, but daring to "go there" nonetheless.

Someone once said that writing is not a bad way to get to know someone – to become friends through writing before pursuing a relationship. I know it was true for me as it was sometimes easier to write things from the heart than it was to say them to someone I hardly knew.

Then one day she called. She said she was thinking about paying a visit and wondered what I'd think? I, of course, said I would love to see her. Both of us knew it would likely change our relationship forever.

And, man, did it ever.

I greeted her at the airport with a single red rose. We went to dinner at the Chancery and out to see the movie "Light Years" at the coolest theatre in Milwaukee, the Oriental. On the way home, "our song" came on the radio in the car, oddly enough, because it wasn't a big top 40 hit. When we got home we stayed up late and talked, and talked.

During the summer of 1989 she did an internship in Brookfield Wisconsin, which enabled us to try dating without five states between us. We were engaged that summer and married on June 16th, 1990. This past year we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary.

Looking back, it’s hard to say how this courtship would have played out in these modern times. Email, Skype and texting seem so impersonal compared to the anticipation of a letter from across the country. My wife saved every letter I sent her. In a fit of cleaning I threw most of hers out just before we were married. I managed to find a number from her that are post-engagement, but everything else is lost in the physical sense.  What remains, are the memories and feelings of that time. I still cherish a handwritten letter from anyone. It is a lost art, one that we pursued with a passion so long ago. It’s my feeling that the emotional outpouring that goes into a letter is felt on the other end in a mystical way that is lost in an electronic medium. 

I do know that it worked something special for us. To this day she says that my words were what attracted her to me. There must have been something in hers that drew me to her, as well.

It’s amazing what one simple letter can become.  

Seventy Years Ago Today

Brett Rawson

By Carly Butler

It was while moving my grandfather into a retirement home that we stumbled upon 110 love letters written from my grandmother to my grandfather just after WWII. They were dated January to July of 1946, and they were tucked away in the back of a cupboard next to a slew of VHS tapes of recorded British sitcoms. My Grama had been gone for over 10 years at this point. She died when I was 13.

When we first found the letters, they were simply a precious family memento  an heirloom that we’d keep in a drawer the few years that followed their discovery. It wasn’t until 2012 that I found myself in front of the RMS Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California, the ship that my Grama sailed on in 1946 towards her new life, that an idea started to form. I would move to England from January to July of 2013 to retrace my Grama's steps.  I would knock on the door of the house she wrote the letters from, I would visit the places she visited and I would write home to my love, just as she did.

The journey of retracing my Grama’s letters 67 years later changed my life. It has led me to this exact moment, drafting up my first entry for this column on Handwritten. If someone were to have told me that a bundle of love letters would change the course of my life, bring incredible people into my path, be the foundation of a love that I have with the perfect man for me, and create a connection to my Grama, someone who left this world almost 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have believed it.  

What I've come to realize is that my gratitude for having these letters is far beyond the grand gesture or epic journey. The most meaningful part of having found my Grama’s letters is that they give me a window into a life-story of an incredible woman who walked before me. Her handwritten words allow me to get to know her as a 26 year-old women embarking on a major life decision, leaving behind everything she knew, putting her faith in love and living life the way it’s meant to be lived. Her words bring me strength when I feel weak, courage when I feel scared, belief when I am in doubt, and chutzpah to live the life of my dream, seventy years later. 

Her first letter, shared below for the first time, is dated January 17, 1946, just over seventy years ago today.

TRANSCRIPTION:

January 17, 1946

My Darling, 

I haven't written before because I knew it wouldn't be any use as the letter would get there before you. Darling, I miss you terribly, much more than I ever did before, now I am only living for the day when I get my papers to sail. Right until I got your telegram Tuesday morning, I thought and lived in the hope that you would walk in once more for a few stolen hours, but after I got the telegram I knew you had gone. Thanks for sending it, darling, it was sweet of you, if I hadn't of got it I might still be thinking you would come.

I hope you had a good sailing darling and it wasn't too rough (or does that make you laugh) anyway the main important thing is that you got there safely. P.G. Everything back here is very much the same, I started work back again today at Samuel’s, I couldn't stay at home doing nothing any longer the time just seem to drag. 

I wrote and asked for the address of the Canadian wives club and I've got it now, they meet every first Monday in the month and the next meeting is on Feb 4th so I'm going to go and learn some more about Canada and Canadian cooking (Ha! Ha! That's not funny). 

It's a funny thing darling but you know all the time you were here we never heard our song once, well both last night and the night before I heard someone singing it on the AFN, they must know just how I feel. Every time I go in our room, I nearly start crying and it's worse when I go to bed, the moon is still shining on our bed just like it was that last night you were here. 

On Tuesday night I went to the Odeon and saw "Love Letters" it was a lovely film and reminded me so much of how letters brought us together. I'm going to Oxford on Saturday for the weekend to take Vera back her things, anyway it will make a change for me, I'm going to take my camera and take some snaps to send to you. That reminds me I bought a smashing photo album the other day and I've put in all my snaps but there is still a lot of room, so I'm ready for all the snaps you are going to send me. Now all I want is a scrapbook. 

One of the women in the shop today asked me what I would like for a wedding present so I guess we are still collecting 'em. While I am writing this Dixie is walking all over the room, so you can just imagine. mmmm. I have an answer Danny's letter yet but I will soon, I have written to everybody else. Well darling I guess that's about all for now except that I love you and I won't feel like a whole person again until we are together for good. P.G. 

Half of me is with you, well cheerio darling, God Bless You and All the Luck in the world to you, Au revoir. All my love forever your ever loving wife, 

Rene

I love you – in x’s
P.S. Give my love to the family. Love Rene.