In defense of letters… in cursive

I’m gonna sit write down and write myself a letter
And make believe it came from you.

There are very bright kids afoot in this techno-paradise of a world who can’t read handwriting. I think it’s best not to get started on what an aberration I believe that to be, or on the fact that one of the most respected teachers I know wonders, with less cynicism than you would imagine, if the company that brought us the iPad is the anti-Christ. All arguments for the valuable boost to brain development, thought processes, and hand-eye coordination that cursive provides aside, you can decide that one on your own. I think it’s fair to say, though, that the techno-genie is out of the bottle for good.

That discussion about cursive coincided with a trip down memory lane. I was looking through a box of photos when I found the last two notes my treasured Auntie Anna wrote me, just months before she passed unexpectedly. She was my father’s baby sister, she lived on the other side of the country, and for years we never saw her at all.

But she wrote letters that my father, who wanted me to know his distant siblings, encouraged me to read. And on those few occasions during my growing up years when I actually got to see her in person, I already knew her, just as I did my other aunties and uncles.

Soon after email began encroaching on every aspect of our lives, “real” letters became the object of derision—”snail mail.” The magic of stuffing correspondence into a mailbox, from whence it could somehow reach any destination near or far and, it should be noted, record the history of humankind, sadly disappeared. Now that we’ve joined the 21st Century, most of us don’t even find bills in our mailboxes. To make matters worse, despite the ubiquitous coverage of our mobile phones and their ability to send and receive email, we’ve truncated communication even more with texting—for which we don’t even write out words. There’s no longer any mystery to receiving a package—it’s what you ordered from Amazon.

R U home?
Is anyone?

For centuries, letter writing was the link that held loved ones together, even after the invention of the telephone. More than that, letters held the key to understanding historic events and human behavior. Letters helped to keep our soldiers’ heads and hearts whole through far too many wars on foreign soil and our own. They built relationships, word by carefully and lovingly chosen word. They congratulated, expressed sorrow, passed the news of the day, kept families together, inspired and revealed, said “thank you” or “with love.” They shared photos. They contained surprises. they instructed and advised.

They told our stories.

Is all of that lost? Have we become so blasé that we no longer think deeply enough about our complicated lives—or, more important, the lives of those we care about—to write down and share our thoughts with them? To want earnestly to hear about their complicated lives?

Although I don’t have any of their letters, I still treasure the few things I have written in my parents’ own hand—birthday cards, recipes, the travel diary my parents kept. I read what they’ve written and they leap off the page at me, as if they were right here in this room. You don’t get that in an email, or even a phone call, folks—much less a text. Your hand-writing is all your own, and a hand-written letter is precious; it is something that stays.

Lately, I’ve started writing an occasional letter. The response to the first I sent to a friend made me feel so good that I’m making a conscious effort to write more.

In cursive.

Want to hear the great Billy Williams sing the tune? Here’s the link

Sibling revelry

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I’m an only child; my history is absent the dramas of siblings one-upping each other, swiping each other’s toys or clothes, falling out over a girl/boyfriend, fighting over who-did-what-to-whom. In a word, my childhood was boring by all obvious measures.

Although I feign a yawn when Hubby and his two brothers retell the same childhood stories we wives have been hearing for lo! these many years, I’m a little envious deep-down. All last week, my husband and his brothers engaged in sibling “revelry,” laughing themselves silly over secret “Apple Club” meetings, being chased around the house by Grandma Sadie, late night noshing with their dad, or engaging in various exploits with a neighborhood full of mischievous chums. But to say that their storytelling is only about enjoying a mutual laugh would be to sell it way too short.

Reams have been written on the importance of storytelling. The drawings on the caves affirm that it’s an occupation as old as time itself,  an integral part of our eternal quest for understanding ourselves and the world around us. My husband and his brothers, like most of us, are still putting together the jigsawed pieces of their personhood. Our parents’ generation—and I believe this is true across ethnic boundaries—was far more private, even secretive, about “personal” matters; little of significance was discussed in the presence of the kids. Thus, there will always be some question marks about what shaped them and why they behaved as or did what they did. The nature of our speculation changes over time, given our vastly different trajectories, but the curiosity never ceases. The storytelling helps.

 

 

Old dogs can, in fact, learn new tricks

UPDATE: Notice the goof in paragraph 2, where I wrote “spring” instead of “string.” Wishful thinking if not a Freudian slip, so I’m going to leave it as is!

I launched my blog with the New Year after months of tossing the idea, well seeded by my daughter,  around in my head. Finally, around Christmas time, I plowed headfirst into WordPress to see if I could figure it out on my own. Some aspects were fairly intuitive; others, virtually inscrutable. I’m no techno-dummy, but at times I felt completely intimidated by all the techno-speak.

I plodded along, going back again and again to try to unravel what seemed like that gigantic ball of spring that sits along a roadside in Kansas. With each small victory, my confidence grew. Sometimes, it took four or five tries. Sometimes, I hit a brick wall and needed professional help (probably in more ways than one). My son pitched in when he could. One of my new younger friends, whom I like to call my techno-angel, has been very gracious and helpful. Little by little, it’s coming together. I try very hard not to get discouraged—after all, this is supposed to be fun—but there are moments when I long for a resident 10-year-old. LOL.

Happily, I’m making progress with each passing week. Now, thanks to the wise counsel and assistance of my techno-angel, I even have a Gravitar… a “globally recognizable avatar” that shows up online whenever I do, in my #HashTagRetired persona. As my irrepressible Uncle Sam used to say, “Who’da thunk it?”

I’m determined that this blog will always be not only informative and entertaining but also lovely to look at. I know a striking, user-friendly website when I see one, but it was a revelation to learn, thanks to my kids and my techno-angel, that my initial notion of a beautiful look wasn’t necessarily the most effective for a blog.

It had never crossed my mind, for example, that I should be more concerned about how format and photos look on a cell phone than on my laptop screen. That was an Aha! moment for sure. I write on my laptop every morning, but I use the phone all day long to check email, the sites I follow, the weather, yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of us do. And even though I agree that we’re overly dependent on our electronic devices, if you resist keeping up with technology, you risk losing your social context. And just like sitting in front of the TV in a recliner, being out of context can make you feel old and out of touch long before your time.

You may have noticed that I started out with #retired and then migrated to #HashTagRetired, which, if you’re techno-savvy, you probably think is redundant. I’m not 100% sure where that will land. If you’ve followed the blog from the start, thanks for your patience with the changes thus far. There will be more; there’s no room for complacency in the faster-than-Superman online universe. Tweets, Instagram, maybe even Pinterest—they’re all on the horizon. A blog, I’ve discovered, needs to be just as organic as the thought process that produces it.

Photo: Miss Puppy Clouseau visits her friends at the solar farm.