the first letter I came across from Jennifer this past spring - it's from 1989
I was going through a box in my basement and found an old scrapbook that my grandmother had made me. Inside I had tucked letters from my first pen pal, Jennifer Carter, who had been my best friend in Kingwood, TX before we moved to Sugar Land when I was in 2nd grade. I took a picture of a letter she had sent and texted her, telling her I'd found it, she texted back she had some of my letters and we made a plan to read them to one another over Zoom. Jennifer and I had met up once in NYC as adults but didn't really keep in touch other than that. What happened next was magical.
a friendship bracelet Jennifer still had!
We spent THREE HOURS on Zoom - first catching up on our lives and then proceeded to chronologically order our letters and start at the beginning. I read her letters to her, she read mine to me. We laughed so hard I couldn't breathe at times! We wrote from the time we were in 2nd grade to early high school. It makes me teary just thinking about it. We touched on frustration with family members, crushes on boys, mean girls, school happenings but also her parents divorcing and the most frank discussions about periods during our middle school years that I think I had with anyone on the planet. You could see us growing apart with time as letters are tough to compete with high school activities and friends, but they were such a life line to me. Seven years. And now we're both 45, her mother has passed away, my parents have divorced, we're both married and have been through numerous jobs, but we have that foundation of knowing one another as little girls who loved to play outside, laughed readily and were our true selves with one another.
a letter from my grandmother from 1990
It made me think about all of the other letters I've received and sent - from a boy named Sterling I met at camp who would write to me on ripped out lined spiral notebook pages with blue ink from his boarding school in the Hudson Valley. From my middle school best friend, Christie, who sent me flower-covered envelopes with updates on all of our friends after I moved to St. Louis in 10th grade. My grandmother's letters, addressed to me in her curly script, telling me about her day, her garden, and that she loved me.
I remember writing a fellow counselor I had a crush on at camp when I was in college and putting the note into his cabin's box which is how we received mail. And he wrote me back! We started leaving notes for one another and later wrote stacks of letters back and forth as our relationship started and we were at school in different states. Letters connected us when email was new and phone calls only existed in the presence of your roommate on a landline. I later married that boy.
rows of cards at Gwen Frostic
I remember walking into the stationary store, Gwen Frostic in Michigan, as a small child and being overwhelmed in the best way possible with all of the choices - you could pick your cards and put together a set of them. I've gone back nearly every year since and restocked my favorites.
I remember sending cards to friends to tell them that I loved them and that I missed them. One of those friends ended her life a few years ago so I'm glad that I had told her I loved her in person and in letters.
Letters require a pause, for the writer and for the receiver. You have to stop and take them in. While email can communicate the same thing, and be more timely, letters are more special to me, more individual - even the stamps can share something about the sender. It's why we created our Greeting Cards and included letter writing in our Children's Activity Book - I'm a letter pusher!
You probably have a box of stationary somewhere in a drawer - who is someone who you haven't talked to or need to talk to? Write them a letter. It can be simple or it can be long. But seeing a hand addressed envelope amongst the junk mail and magazines is such a treat - you'll make their day.
Oh, and Jennifer and I have begun sending one another postcards this summer - it's delightful and I highly recommend it!