I was the lucky guest at a dinner party recently, and while at the table the conversation turned to the change in the way our world communicates. Specifically, the group of friends discussed the way they had grown up with pen pals and letter writing as a way to connect with the world around them. (My own visits to Switzerland are one happy consequence of a pen pal relationship that lasted for several generations!) Each of the guests, representing four continents and six nationalities, reminisced about a special connection to the “old fashioned” tradition of handwriting letters, addressing and stamping them, and then waiting expectantly for a return note as a welcome surprise in the mailbox…
So much care and anticipation was involved in the process.
All through high school and university I kept in contact (before email! gasp!) with the friends I had made through school exchanges, and with those who were travelling to “see the world” while I worked my way through school first. I had cards from almost every continent and loved the ones that included scraps of newspaper or bus tickets as a tiny connection to the friend and the place. I carried that box of correspondence from house to house through many moves…
The letters were a tangible connection to the people I missed – a way to be connected physically in spite of the distance. Christmas time was best – colourful cards would begin to arrive in early December and often right into January – each one a reminder of a person or place. Like my mother had done in my various childhood homes, I continued to hang them up in every apartment along the way. Each year I would dig out the old ones and add the new ones to the display.
My favourites were (and still are) the ones that had been made by hand. The time and care spent on making a card just for me was always appreciated – each one was like a tiny little gift. Even after I had given up carrying the box of old cards from place to place (they found worthy second lives as Grade One art projects…) I saved the ones that were handmade as “samples” for the classroom. (All teachers are hoarders. Ask anyone.) Some are so lovely, and I am so sentimental, that I still put them up on the mantel or the corner of a shelf here or there around the house…
This crocheted wreath from my aunt – so perfectly tiny – goes above the fireplace every year:
This one came from my husband’s cousins – they started to send handmade cards every year when the children were old enough to help…
Even though the tradition is dwindling, it is alive and well in our tiny corner of the world. Since my oldest child was two and able to “help” I have turned the dining room into a glitter glue tornado every November in the furious production of cards for friends, family, co-workers, classmates and everyone else who touches our lives through the year. We fill our house with music and messiness as we cut and glue and paint and glitter until all the cards are done. Sending them out is a big tradition of sticking the stamps and taking turns at the post box…
This sponge stamped tree scene was our first (in 2008):
…and then, because we have more people to love and be grateful for than even we can count, we made these this year too!
A little love and gratitude goes a long way – we send it out into the world and let it work its’ magic as it goes.
“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” (Elizabeth Hubbard)