In response to my previous blog, about my technology woes, a longtime friend mailed me a magazine article about turntables.
Not scanned and attached to an email. Mailed. In an envelope. With a handwritten address and a stamp. Delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
What a thrill for me to spy her familiar cursive—that we learned together in second grade—as I pulled her letter from my mailbox!
“Just read this in my ‘Bon Appetit’ magazine and thought of you and your recent blog,” she wrote. The column titled Spin Class by James Murphy expounds on the benefits of playing LPs on a turntable during dinner parties. The accompanying black and white photo shows actress Audrey Hepburn surrounded by LP records. The caption reads: “Circa 1953, making a playlist the old-school way.”
So I have the actual magazine page, courtesy of a thoughtful friend. Who takes the time to do that anymore?
Coincidentally, this is the same friend I scheduled an appointment with to talk on the phone two weeks ago. With her in New England and me in the South, our connection has remained strong but our correspondence, sorry. Through emails we determined that we craved a gab session. Our travel and other obligations necessitated the planned call, which started something like, “Remember back when we would just pick up the phone and call each other any old time?”
Warmly welcomed as it was, her mailing poked at my sore spot about the loss of letters, notes, and, in many cases, handwriting itself over the past decade or so.
Besides an occasional thank-you note, my mail mainly consists of bills, magazines and junk—rarely anything handwritten by an actual person. Of course, I’m all in with today’s immediate communication. Yet I harbor fond memories of watching for the “mailman” (always, back then) to round the corner onto my street in anticipation of “a letter for me.” Please, Mr. Postman, once a hit song, is now a history lesson.
Kids growing up today won’t have treasures like these, which are among my most precious:
I recall the long missives I laboriously wrote in my teens to a girlfriend whose family had moved to Panama and, later, when we were both mothers of toddlers, to another friend who moved to the Carolinas. They truly were labors of love, packed with details, feelings and all The Latest. Incredible now to recall that it would take days for my news to arrive and at least a week to receive a prompt reply.
Enter email, the beginning of the end of the handwritten letter. Sure, I gradually stopped writing them, too. Next to zipper bags, email is my favorite invention.
Same for texting. Admittedly, it took awhile to resist using proper capitalization, punctuation, abbreviation and spelling. Now, keying such messages as “r u OK? c u tonite. b late. luv u” are second nature. If I really need to talk to my sons, a “call ur mom” text usually does the trick.
Yes, I save, and sometimes print, heartfelt emails. But there is something about electronics that zaps sentimentality.
Speaking of sentimental, here is a gem my brothers and I discovered among our mothers’ memorabilia following her death last year.
An ancient precursor to Facebook, this approximately 6- by 5-inch 1936 memory book was passed around Hallahan Catholic Girls High School in Philadelphia for classmates to post messages with fountain pens instead of keyboards. As an aside, the discovery reminded me of the slang books we used to pass around our high school in Chambersburg, PA, in the 1960s. Remember them? Each page had a name at the top and people wrote comments about that person on the page. A teacher confiscated mine. Would love to have that book back.
So long, cursive
Sadly, the flow of handwriting is ebbing altogether.
An article by Bobby George and June George, co-founders of a Montessori school in South Dakota, that was posted yesterday on theatlantic.com is titled Don’t Write Off Cursive:
Teaching kids how to write in script is no longer a priority in American schools, but it should be.
They wrote: “Cursive is an art. It’s woven into the very fabric of the United States constitution. Yet, everywhere we look, it’s literally being written out of existence. Like a sandcastle built at the edge of the sea, with each crashing wave, the strokes of cursive are slowly fading away. Once at the very heart of public school education, cursive is aggressively being replaced by computer classes. As of today, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English, which omits cursive from required curricula in schools today.”
That news would have been unthinkable to the person who penned this postcard 105 years ago to someone 200 miles away in the same state. Nor could the writer have fathomed an electronic response within seconds.
Amazing how a century later we have come from relying on penny postcards for our most personal correspondence to instantly posting a blog on the internet by pressing one button.