Prompted by the visit of my oldest friend last week, I pulled out a box crammed with letters I received in college, 30 years ago.
"Oh my god," she exclaimed. "I remember this stationery." We laughed at the preponderance of Peanuts characters that seemed to bedeck most of our letters. It was easy to spot hers. Her messy spiky print was so different than the loopy half-script of my twin sister, Maddy, whose letters also filled the box. My older sister, Ellen, wrote less often, but her letters always came on lined loose leaf paper. She wrote in large print, with big circles over her "i"s and "j"s. I hadn't looked at them in a while and felt tears well just from seeing my sisters' handwriting. They both died in the past three years, and I am so grateful for these letters, for being able to hold onto something so distinctive and personal. Postcards from Ellen's trip to Santa Monica, from Maddy's first visit to the Empire State Building, peppered with quips that only sisters understand.
Even the envelopes were memorable. Maddy would often send letters with the return address of "Bruce Springsteen, Asbury Park," or sometimes "Tony Fusco," the name of my incredibly good looking French teacher.
I rarely get letters anymore. It's much easier to text or email. But a screen with perfectly shaped Helvetica is so bereft of character. I love the speed and efficiency of email but it wouldn't be the same, snuggling up with a friend over a computer and scrolling through an inbox.
I still love to write letters. For special correspondence, I use my fountain pen and a pot of scented ink. Perhaps the smell of flowers will fade, but I hope that one day when I'm gone, my daughter will be able to pull out a frayed box with ripped envelopes and hold onto a piece of me.