Remembering the delights of the handwritten letter

When I was a kid winter was longer than forever and we talked to each other without texting.

When I was a kid winter was longer than forever and we talked to each other without texting.

When I was a kid there was no Facebook. No computers. No cell phones.

A wall telephone was held in awe by those of us who were lucky enough to have one.

And a handwritten letter ahhh, that was a rare and wonderful gift. I remember my father getting these mysterious pale blue airmail letters from his native Scotland.

It was a grand day when those letters arrived. My father had only reached the tender age of seven when he left his homeland. No doubt, his parents wanted a better life here in Canada for themselves and their family, but I believe my father, though I only knew the man for 15 short years, never forgot his Scottish roots.

But whether it was an airmail letter, or a plain old handwritten letter in a plain old white envelope, snail mail was as much apart of my childhood as were visits with the owners who lived behind the general store and Sunday School every Sunday morning.

If memory serves me correctly (which quite often it doesn’t), the post office was a little white clapboard building with the sign ‘Condor Post Office’ written over the door. Inside there were two wickets and the postmaster, a kindly old bachelor whom I think lived in the back, was always behind one of those wickets to hand out the mail.

I remember standing on my tiptoes just so I could see over the top of the wicket, feeling all grown up and proud when he handed me our mail.

The post office was kind of like the social hub of our community. It was a great place to meet, to catch up on the latest gossip and finally, when all was said and done, to come home with the proud announcement, “I got the mail.”

When I travel down the hallowed halls of childhood memories, I seem to remember the post office also had its own peculiar smell, probably a combination of old wood and newspapers and mail and those big burlap gunnysacks the mail came in.

I was thinking about that long ago post office today as I scrolled down the many entries on my Facebook timeline.

I am not a Facebook fan and yet I am a closet user.

I find myself reading all the posts, the inspirational ones, the stupid ones and, accidentally, I even have found my little cursor hovering over the occasional post that is worth sharing.

But, Facebook does serve another and more serious function.

It keeps us in contact with family and friends who have somehow, almost, but not quite vanished from our lives.

I think about my brother, who is completely cool and wears his Korean veteran hat at a jaunty angle with more than a touch of class, even though he is confined to a wheelchair and lives in a nursing home.

Sometimes, his pale blue eyes seem far and distant and he talks about those long, lonely days in the service and how letters from home were his own personal key to survival.

Can you imagine if he had Facebook?

But still I wonder if Facebook, for all its instantaneous capabilities, can ever replace the absolute delight of receiving a handwritten letter. How can you match the anticipation of breaking open a sealed envelope, smoothing out the pages of the letter inside and maybe sitting down with a cup of tea, as you read the pages.

And finally, after going through that ritual you read news from home: the five-year old sitting on the writer’s knee, your brother who batted a home run in the bottom of the ninth, and your sister who is off to a dance at the town hall with a group of young people.

Another gift of the past to be remembered and cherished.

And, perhaps, even though we now have Facebook and texting, one that will not be completely abandoned.

I hope not!


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