Endangered Art

***

A very appreciative thank you to all of our service men and women, to all those who have sacrificed time with their families so we could safely enjoy ours. And to the ones who have fallen, you are never forgotten.

***

I was raised with a certain regard toward etiquette and decorum. I have my step-mother to thank for this. My father, though a cultured and refined man, is a born and bred Missouri boy, and he likely wouldn’t haven’t instilled the more urbane principles as a part of his child’s upbringing. It was my step-mother who, by way of example and instruction, taught me that a lady knows which side of the plate the knife and spoon belongs; that when hosting a gathering, she will wait until every single one of her guests have been served and seated before taking a bite of food. And should the occasion merit gifts, she always shows her appreciation and gratitude by sending out hand-written note. no more than a week later.

As a young child you can imagine my chagrin every time a birthday, holiday, or any other festivity denoted that I would dredge out my “C” stationary and sit down to sloppily compose the perfunctory “thank you” note.

“Dear Grandma and Grandpa,”

Thank you for the $15. I’m very thankful for the money. I will use it to buy . . .”

X 25.

Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy it. As all children are until they’re grown — and sometimes longer still — I was egocentric, and rather than focusing on the gift, I begrudged the chore.  By the time I finished writing all upteenth thank-you notes — hours later — I had awful hand-cramps and those hard, white little knobs had formed at the base of my fingernails. Mrs. Curtis would have slapped my hand with her yardstick if she ever caught sight of note eight or nine; how the lovely third-grade cursive had gradually dissolved until the writing was hardly legible and even trajectory morbidly compromised. I suppose I could have attended to the matter in stages, coming and going as my hand regained feeling, but really that never occurred to me.

As I got older, however, I developed an appreciation for the art. I believe my soul knew I was to be a writer, long before any tangible perception surfaced in my mind. As a teenager, and someone who relished the opportunity to pour herself into poetry and inked thoughts, I exchanged notes (I’m talking two page sagas, on lined notebook paper, front and back) daily, with friends at school. And not only that, but when I really wanted to impress someone, I would fold the paper so that it encased itself like an envelope.

Oh, here, I’ll just show you:

This hobby stuck with me through young adulthood. Whenever I could, I picked up stationary when it was on sale and went about regularly corresponding with friends. Sometimes it was just to say hello and thank you for being in my life, other times it validated an occasion. I began to notice, though, that beyond a close few friends, reciprocity was uncommon. Receiving a letter, card, or note in the mail grew increasingly rare, only upheld by said relatives mentioned above. And now, with Facebook and other forms of social media, I fear the art is nearing endangerment completely. I admit I’ve been somewhat derelict in this vein, too.

I’m left to assume my friends were not forced into penned labor as I was, or rather, they were, and when the time arose to be proprietor of their lives, they chose not to partake in the act of thanking by note.

I find that just a tiny bit sad.

Only because there is something very romantic and magical that happens between the sender and receiver. Do you know what it is? Whether you have spilled yourself into a twenty page novella, or simply jotted down a few amorous lines, the sender has spoken volumes.

You have said . . .

And the receiver realizes, in a matter of seconds, just how special they are to you.

I savor the cards and notes people to send to me. And I tell you no lie, when I say my heart gives a little flutter when I see a colorful, embossed envelope, my full name written in pretty scrawl, a sticker middling the seal.

It’s magic.

This month I was reminded of my affection for hand-written notes. I received three anniversary cards: from my Grandma, my Grandparents, and my mother. And a couple weeks ago I received two separate notes from two friends of mine. One thanked me for supporting her mission trip to Kenya, the other just to say she loves me and is thankful to have me as her friend. Presently they decorate my desk, perched up against a white pitcher filled with paper roses.

Amanda’s note:

Tammy’s note:

And this is the card my sweet angel gave to my for our anniversary last Tuesday.

So, what do you say? Participate in a little magic and romance this week; send someone a card, hand-write them a long letter. Heck, send one to me! We could be pen-pals.

I did a little browsing on Etsy this morning, and found this charming stationary.

Have a look.

I might splurge and buy some, or I may just break out some good ol’ fashion lined paper. We’ll see. One thing is for certain: I will not allow this endangered pastime to vanish with modern communication. Some things in life are just too precious to give up.

Have a lovely day, friends.

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51 thoughts on “Endangered Art

  1. I share your enthusiasm for handwritten notes, stationary and post offices. It’s like radio when television came along. The beauty of previous forms will just give us another layer to excavate as new layers are built on top.

    • Well said, Susan. It’s the whole silver and gold concept; there’s no need to antiquate one for the sake of the other. We can have both, value both, savor what makes each form of communication special.

  2. Aw I loved this reminder of the joys a little handwritten card can bring. I too share in this affinity. And what cute stationary you found! I may just have to take a little perusal trip over to etsy soon 🙂

  3. I love getting cards and letters in the mail. Before my mom passed away, she would send cards and letters and put little stickers on the back, and she always searched for the right card to make my day.

    I’d love to be pen pals! What a great idea. Fan mail. LOL!

    What a great post, and unfortunately, it is so sad. People are forgetting to interact with each other and the ‘old ways’ are dying. I treasure all of my cards and letters and have never thrown any away. I completely agree with what you said. Some things in life ARE to precious to give up.

    Bless you, Cara. Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

    • Jenny, your mom sounds like a very special woman.

      And yes, that would be wonderful! Send me your address and I’ll start us off.

      I have this sneaking suspicion that things are going to take a turn here very soon. I think people are already growing tired of phenoms like Facebook. Those who truly, truly love to communicate will find — and search! — for ways to do so genuinely; spending time at coffee shops, picking up the phone to say hello, handwritten notes. Facebook is a fraud to be quite honest, giving the semblance of community and relationships. I am hopeful that there will be a shift in culture, a remembering of things past, and a movement toward excavating them.

      Bless you, Jenny!

      ~ Cara

  4. Wow Schmera, I feel honored but most of all reminded how much handwritten note means. It’s priceless and i agree, whenever i see a personal letter in the mail my heart skips a beat – it is SO exciting! Love you!

  5. I used to send letters to my friends in Australia when I first moved back to Singapore. That slowly moved over to email, then now it’s Facebook comments.

    You’re right… nothing quite beats a letter because at the very least, it says you made a trip to the post office!

    • That is very sad, Drew. I suppose we can’t expect everyone to understand or appreciate the art of it; hopefully you might find a friend of two who would be willing to keep up the tradition, though.

      • Well, I made a penpal out of it, who lives in Sweden. It’s been like 15 years, we’ve still not met up, but we still email each other occasionally send cards. It’s great!

  6. I’m with you here and agree it’s sadly a disappearing art. I love invitations, thank you’s, notes & letters of any kind, and paper but am one of the guilty ones 😦 One of my favourite possessions are remnants still in the box of rose stationery given to me as a birthday gift many many years ago by my now partner when we were just friends.

  7. Sometimes (often?) your posts hit my heart-box. I have a niece with whom I was very close despite the distance that separated us. (Texas to Pennsylvania)

    When she got married, she chose a destination wedding in Cozumel. Not keen on traveling to Mexico, I made all manner of excuses for not being there on her special day. That was a year ago, and things have been strained between us since.

    Going through my old photos, I found pictures of the two of us as she grew from a toddler to a teen, and I realized I had to send her a letter. A hand-written letter. With copies of those pictures to demonstrate how much I miss her and love her. She was the surrogate for the daughter I never had. And, I hurt her deeply when I chose not to be there for her.

    No. An email won’t do. And, I don’t need fancy stationary to tell her how much having her in my life means to me. Thanks for the nudge, Cara.

    • Oh, Gloria, I think I would very much like to be pen-pals with you . . .

      The story of the estrangement between you and your niece tugged on my heart. I can easily understand both perspectives on this. Just the sight of airplanes gives me the tremors, and traveling really is just one of those things you really have to want to do. Of course your niece wanted you there for her wedding, but in situations like this, I always attempt to look at the person versus the act of injustice I feel has been wreaked upon me. I don’t think I could look at you for more a few seconds and not see a soft, glowing warmth.

      Yes, I believe a letter is perfect. I will lift up a prayer right now, asking that when she receives it, her heart might soften as she remembers the woman she adores.

      Much love to you,
      C

  8. Once again, you’ve managed to strike a chord within my heart. I was also unmercifully (or so I thought) subjected to hand written thank you notes as a child. One after the other, painstakingly thanking the giver for the savings bond, book, or money. So important these little notes must have been, for after my grandmother passed away, a little package arrived with all my thank you notes I had written throughout the years. She saved each one and my Aunt had found them as she was going through her things. How fun to see how my handwriting had changed throughout the years and how funny to see how I tried to make it interesting. 🙂

    She also saved all her letters from my Brigadier General Grandfather while he was serving overseas. I’ve yet to read all of them, but that is on my list of things to do very soon. What a precious glimpse into their world.

    I agree wholeheartedly that we can’t let the written word perish in this digital age. Thanks for the refresher on WHY it is so important. You have an uncanny ability to write about things that resonate so much truth with me.

    Have a productive and happy day!
    Beth

    • Oh, yes! Beth, I can relate immensely on the “attempting to make things interesting” front. It really did feel as if I was saying the same thing over and over again. Halfway through, I always began to wonder if all my relatives will get together and “compare notes” with one another and see how “grateful” I truly was!

      Wow . . . that right there, is a testament to the intrinsic value of handwritten thoughts. That she went to the trouble of keeping every single one of them, just shows they were too special to toss out with the rubbish. How wonderful it will be when you do decide to sit down and read those love notes. I can just imagine the wealth of thoughts shared between two who were left to resort to paper to profess their love and affection.

      Thank you, Beth.
      ~ Cara

  9. My youngest daughter and i were just talking about note writing as I’d asked her if she’d writen her birthday gift thank you notes. 🙂 And funny thing… she’s a budding writer who writes the loveliest notes and homemade birthday cards.
    I’ve always written thank you notes, etc and always required my two girls to do the same. My oldest recently said why not just email a note or say thanks on facebook. I almost choked on my spit! It’s not exactly the thank you I replied, it’s that you took the time to write the note.
    A lovely, thought provoking post Cara!! And of course, your writing is exceptional. Always a pleasure to read my friend!! Have a super fabulous week!

    • That is too funny, Karista! A good mom you are. Hopefully she will find the value in this, and later on when she is mother, will encourage — and enforce when necessary, lol. — her children to do the same. Though, a budding writer, I have no doubt she will come to appreciate the act if she doesn’t already. It’s your eldest you’ll have to keep an eye on! LOL.

      Fb is good for a many things, but thanking some for their thoughtfulness and generosity is not one of them. I won’t lie; I have been tempted to do the same after a hectic week and too much time has passed between the receiving the gift responding. In the end, however, I know that delayed thoughtfulness wins over a timely note lacking in consideration every time.

      You have a wonderful week, too, friend!
      Xoxo

  10. Handwritten notes are treasures! I have a set of letters my dad wrote to me when he was stationed overseas and I was a little girl. I love to pull them out and read them every now and then. I know, someday when he is no longer with us, I will cherish being able to see his handwriting.

  11. Oh man, I am absolute crap at writing thank you notes. I always wanted to be that girl – the gracious one doling out timely cards of thanks, or quick notes that are just what the person needed to hear at the moment they went to their mailbox. I’ve even got the drawer of cards in case the mood should ever overtake me. But I’m not that girl. Never have been. Sometimes I wish my mom had sat me down and instilled that habit in me as a child, but I know I would have hated it as much as you. My problem is that if it isn’t about the here and now it’s not part of my thought process. But that doesn’t stop me from buying pretty stationary. 🙂

    • You are a disciplined woman, Christy. If you decided that you wanted to “be” that woman, you could; in just the same way you are the woman who crushes those workouts and finds creative ways to spend qt with your husband. I admit, I was not much for those thank-you notes in my younger years, but I am so very glad my step-mom thought it a worthy endeavor. I have a deep appreciation for the art and love jotting down something kind and sending it off. It never ceases to bless the one who receives it, whether I wrote something of value or not.

      Hope you are doing well!

  12. Cara,

    Your posts are always so beautiful! All the pictures you’ve chosen to convey and compliment your writing are so creative and elegant while also being warm and inviting. Just the way I find you to be!

    I totally agree, the hand written letter or card is so much more meaningful. I love getting those personalized posts in the mail. Maybe I’ll get one today!

    Xoxxo!

    • Well, what do you know? I find you to be much of the same, my friend, but I’m still sticking to sugar!

      Ooo . . . could there be a delivery scheduled to arrive in the near future? 😉

      Xoxo

  13. Cara, I’m with you on this one! Personally hand-written notes with actual stamps on them are as valuable as they are rare. Thank you for a lovely post.
    Judy

  14. When did we begin to notice the only things in our mail boxes were bills – those and ever larger mountains of junk mail? I noticed when I went back to Oz to look after Ma and Papa. It struck me – forcefully – that by that time Ma and Papa were the only people who still wrote me letters, and no wonder. I, wretch that I am, was one of those who never quite got over the obligatory ‘thank you’ notes, or worse still, the weekly two pages home that had to be shown to the duty mistress, every Sunday before Chapel. For decades Post Cards – from exotic, or beautiful, or historic places – offered a magical solution to keeping in touch. But time marches on, and before I knew it my friends had opted for the immediacy (and certainty of catching up with me) offered by e-mail and the internet, leaving the occasional birthday card, and Ma’s (often very disappointed) weekly letters as my only real mail.

    I miss those letters. And when I do, I remind myself to feel Ma’s pain and disappointment when there was no letter, again, today. Not to smite myself, but to be conscious of the pain I caused the person who loved me most in the world.

    • Mere, your comment broke my heart a little . . . it did. Even across oceans, continents, and a computer screen, I could feel your hurt. I hope someday you might reconcile any guilt you have over negligent correspondence. I can’t imagine your mother would want you carrying such a heavy weight on your shoulders. You are a beautiful soul — flawed, imperfect, and beautiful.

      Love to you,
      C

      • I think that sounds about right. We tend to hang on to guilt and shame, and all sorts of ugly things that aren’t meant to be nurtured and clung to. Grace. I think you have already spent plenty of time recognizing an unjust hurt you caused. Now I think it’s about time you forgave yourself for it.

      • Can’t give you an honest appraisal of how I felt, Cara, because this conversation was uppermost in my mind. But, you won’t believe what was there. I don’t know whether this will work, but try:

        It’s a fundraising leaflet from my old school, soliciting donations for the Scholarship Fund so more young people can “Let their light shine”.

      • This gave me the most wonderful chills, Mere.
        You know . . . when I read your very first comment, I longed to be there in the same room with you, and hug you if you would let me. Sometimes a hug is all it takes. Sometimes not. But either way, I wanted you to know that you are loved. This . . . this was as if I had deposited a piece of myself right there in your mailbox.

        Thank you for taking the time to photo it and send it to me. Hope you are well this day!

  15. I read your post when you first published it but just now having a moment to sit down and comment. I was also struck by your post and it tugged my heart. When I was 14 my mom moved my brother and me from the little town I had always known. I was leaving everything I had ever accomplished in sports and in the community and most importantly my Best Friend…we were soul sisters. Even though it was only 2 hours away it was so hard (long distance phone calls cost money back then) and thus began our wonderful letter friendship. Meg and I wrote throughout high school and when it came to going to college we ended up choosing schools on opposite sides of the state. So it continued through college and every letter she ever sent me always put a smile on my face as I am sure mine did too. Email came into play while we were in college but we still chose to write. Meg ended up going to the east coast for a spell and we wrote off and on. After I married (she was my maid of honor) things became different. I still to this day do not understand what happened but Meg was always a free spirit and loved to travel and had many many friends and was always spread so thin with her time. I had friends sure, but for me, I was and still am really, a loyal to the bitter end kind of girl. Meg is and will always be my best friend and no matter what is going on she has a place in my heart.

    Our communication started to deteriorate and became less and less. I found myself not knowing what was going on in her life and wanting to know but feeling like I was bothering her busy life. Tiny details would come to me here and there in mass emails and even though it wasn’t personal to me I still loved hearing about it. When she married I was pregnant with my first child and my pregnancies were all high risk so I wasn’t allowed to travel and I was more than a few states away from her. I sent in what I could and asked for pictures but it hurt me to miss it. Her and her husband traveled to the middle east and lived there working for the Peace Corps for many years. I loved seeing her updates on Facebook, being able to see what she was up to without bothering her. She still contacts me here and there on facebook and with every note from her my heart skips…I miss her more than she will ever know. She told me out of nowhere earlier this year that her mom had been diagnosed with cancer and there was not much time left. They moved back to the states and I came to find out through another source that her mom passed away last month. I sucked up my nerves and wrote to her…her mom was like my second mom. I was hurt but not as much as I am sure she was hurting. I was so awkward writing to her…I was scared to offend her but hopeful that my letter would be a bright spot in a hard time but I just don’t know, it’s been several weeks and I have yet to hear anything even just a ‘thank you for the letter’.

    To this day I have every single letter from her…(sigh)…I treasure them. I miss her correspondence, but I mostly miss my soul sister. I am sure my loyalty to her has blocked my way to have some amazing friendships, but at the same time I really value the friendships I do have and feel like if I have so many friends how can I possibly dedicate my entire self to all of them. Can you tell I am all heart? I am not sure why I am spilling my guts here, I guess I feel safe…somewhere where no one knows who I am and I can truly vent about how hurt I am that one of the people I hold closest to my heart doesn’t feel the same way anymore. It’s hard for me to admit… There are times I want to write a letter and I do but I never send it…I feel like I will be a nuisance so I refrain.

    Sorry for the novella ha ha…just what came to me when I read your beautiful post. I can imagine getting letters from you would be like having dessert. I love how you write and I can only imagine being so lucky to have a writer as a pen pal. Blessings to you my friend and thank you for reading this if you got this far. I look forward to your next post as always 😀 ~Ninali

    • Ninali,

      Rather than reading this comment last night, I decided to savor your beautiful novella to read with coffee this morning. I am so very glad I did. I strongly feel that the first couple of “things” you put into your eyes and ears in the morning affects your day greatly. Hearing your heart, your view on friendships, and in general just listening to you — a nice, compassionate, loyal human being — was a good thing. I of course have opinions about your friend and her lack of correspondence with you, but judge I will not. I will refrain from sharing any of those, because ultimately she is your friend and you will make the decision whether to continue hanging in there.

      Essentially, though, you married your best friend 😉 and that will remain indefinitely! The term “best friends” is a sensitive topic for me, too. I have never had much luck in that department. Like yourself, I am loyal, but even beyond that, I tend to try and make all of my relationships tens. What I mean by that is, I want to be intimately bonded with my friends; talk to them weekly, see them biweekly, go deep into conversation, eschewing all the surfacy stuff. Most people just don’t have the time for that, though. I’ve learned to content myself with the fact that my Michael is my best friend and nothing or no one will ever come close to the bond we share, even if the desire of my heart is to have something similar with a female.

      You are so kind to say that . . . I don’t know if it would be dessert exactly . . . maybe sugar-free jello? LOL. When I write just for fun, I tend to unharness my brain and let it go! Which means, language is exchanged in favor of real communication; a torrent of thoughts and whims; the random things, the weird things, the thoughts that make zero sense at all but had to be shared, you know? If you are ever looking for a pen pal, I would be glad to engage in letter writing with you!

      Thank you for sharing your story about you and Meg’s friendship. I wish with all my heart there was a happier ending here . . . but I would’t be at all surprised if things were to come full circle here, as each of you grow older. In the meantime, I hope you will put yourself out there, and be open to new relationships in that new neighborhood of yours. You are such light and fun; anyone would be greatly improved upon for having you in their life.

      Much love to you!
      ~ C ~

      • You are so sweet to read that. I read it again this morning, started shaking my head and thought to myself, “Oh Ninali, you are crazy…what have you done?” 😀 But you are right Cara, I did marry my best friend and I should have made it clear that I do consider him that. He truly is and he has held my hand, lent me his shoulder, been infuriated with how much Meg has hurt me and still supports me in how much she means to me. I am blessed to have my husband and I thank God everyday for bringing us together.

        I so get you when you say making all your relationships tens…I fall into that category big time. Perhaps that is what drove the wedge between Meg and me. I must’ve tried too hard and she didn’t have that kind of time for me, and I likely may have been too high-maintenance of a friendship for her. I’ve started coming to terms with it…I don’t see it as a bad thing when you want to give so much of yourself to your friends. To me that is what it is all about, and I have finally convinced myself that I AM a good friend to have and the days of questioning myself as a friend are over. I will always have an open door for Meg, always but as a friend I too have to respect how she wants to be friends as well and be satisfied with that. 🙂

        I may take you up on becoming a letter companion. I have to be honest, I find myself very inspired by your spirituality and faith. I have fallen off my track a bit and as I have been reading you I have been feeling a bit renewed in that department. You do wonderful things without even trying 😉 Pretty amazing.

        Thanks for listening Cara, the people that have you close in their life are so blessed.

      • Never ever feel crazy about sharing here. This space is open to you whenever, however, and whatever you might be in the mood to say. 😉

        Oh, I think we would exchange some pretty awesome letters, Ninali. Let me know if you decide you’d like to give it go.

        “I have to be honest, I find myself very inspired by your spirituality and faith. I have fallen off my track a bit and as I have been reading you I have been feeling a bit renewed in that department. You do wonderful things without even trying.” ~ This quite truthfully might be the most wonderful thing I have heard in a really, really, really long time. I’m not sure if you were following this blog at Easter time when I wrote a post which most ardently professed my faith, but in it I talked about how I try not to use this blog as a forum for “only” my religious beliefs. I feel like that could potentially marginalize people. Many people come to know God, to love Jesus and realize how much he loves them through another’s faith. But it must be genuine. It cannot be forced or manipulated. It has to birth naturally. And so when I write, I attempt to speak of Him without shoving the idea of religion on people. I am so very glad you feel that through my writing. And, please, if you ever want to talk more about faith, don’t ever hesitate to e-mail me. I’ll leave you with my email address for now, and maybe we can start a penpalship soon. 😉

        Mikeswife522@gmail.com

        Lots of love to you,
        ~ C

  16. I send out hand written notes as well. I am also a HUGE Thank you note sender as well. When I receive a gift, I also make a personal phone call to let the person know that is was received and appreciated. IF someone does not acknowledge a gift I give them (i.e. graduation, wedding, baby shower) I will notlonger give them gifts. I must receive some sort of thank you (it can be verbal, a phone message, or note. I do not like FB Thank Yous and since I have deleted that account ppl can’t do that anymore). I am a stickler for that sort of stuff. But I do love a good note 🙂

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