tl;dr – I’m looking for penpals, or people who would be interested in getting a letter from me! No promises.
June 16 2020 update – I’ll be happy to accept folks who want to be penpals indefinitely! I’m very much enjoying sharing correspondence, so don’t worry that it’s too late!
The older I get, and the longer we live in the digital era, the more I realize that I was born in the waning phases of another civilization. When I was a girl, methods of communication were different. I was thinking about this, as we’re all trapped without libraries right now. Adam and I have approximately 12 big tupperware tubs of books in our basement at the moment, because he’s in the process of building bookshelves for our hallway. In addition to those tubs, we have books in every room of the house: fancy books, cookbooks, gaming books, paperback novels, kids books, comic books. I confess, I bought two books just today.
Growing up, entertainment was much scarcer. 13 channels on tv. VHS tapes. Your parents bookshelves – and the library. Plus the radio. (Folks – I’m talking so long ago this was before you could get NPR in Washington State.) Trust me, I knew what time Paul Harvey would be on, and waited for it. If this had happened then, we would have both been better prepared for the boredom, and also had many fewer resources for dealing with it. I had read every even slightly interesting book in my parents bookshelves (blech – regency romances and naval sea battle fiction!) My sister and I had read through our classroom libraries (much less a thing), our school libraries, our town library (the librarian was very shirty and didn’t believe we could possibly be reading as much as we took out) and made monthly trips to our regional library.
In another example, I know how to navigate with a map. I know how to get unlost if you’ve gotten lost (lots of practice with my sister). I have driven across country with a Road Atlas and a AAA Triptik, the route highlighted by the patient woman at the counter who put it together from vast drawers that spanned the whole country.
But the one I’m thinking about today is the letter. I LOVED writing letters. I recently got some of my boxes of letters from my parents (they’re trying to clean out our crap) and there are so many of them. Half of the people whose letters I saved I don’t even remember. I’d pick up pen pals wherever I went. I ran into an exchange student from Indonesia while I was at summer camp (he was just visiting the campus) and we wrote to each other for YEARS. I wrote to my uncle. (All his letters were on yellow legal paper. Half the fun for me was my extensive stationery collection.) I wrote to whatever guy I was dating at the time. I wrote to the concertmaster of my orchestra. I wrote notes in code to the other girls in my class, cleverly folded to make their own envelope. I wrote to my grandmother. I wrote to the paper. Heck – my very first job in college was “email correspondent” to write letters in this new fangled technology. (I made the job up. It worked.) And I loved it. I think, looking back, that I was writing as many as 3 – 4 letters a week.
And I loved it. I loved finding and buying stationery, and picking just the right notes for the recipient. I loved the 19th century air of sitting at my desk “tackling my correspondence”. (I’ve always had a weakness for paperwork which is simply inexplicable.) Sometimes I’d steal my mom’s carbon paper (I AM SO OLD) and experiment with it. I loved going down to the post office and selecting stamps, saying with the sagacity of a fourteen year old that “pretty stamps are the same price as boring ones”. I remember when stamps went from 22c to 25C (it hurt my budget) and from there to 29c. Of course, the very best part was getting a nice, thick letter back in the mail, full of news and notables, or maybe stickers, or drawings. You just never knew, until you opened it.
I held on to mail for a very long time. As a young adult I bought about a billion rubber stamps with which to make cards to send out. Over time, it’s gotten harder (and more expensive) to buy stationery. You no longer find packs of colorful or saccharine or coffee-themed paper and letters in every drug store and bookshop as you once did. You only find single (expensive!!!) cards and a handful of increasingly lame packets of thank you notes.
I’ve never fully stopped sending letters. Sending a letter to everyone I know is a huge part of my sacred Christmas rite. But I’ve somewhat run out of people to send general letters to. But here we are, in this strange time, where we harken back a bit to those earlier eras. I’ve discovered the best way for me to pay attention in Very Important Business meetings is to … color. So I’ve been coloring in pieces of art, and stamps. And then during social Zoom calls, I’ve been crafting them into note cards. And on beautiful evenings and weekend days, I’m sitting in my back yard or my front porch and writing letters.
I’m working through my Christmas card list, and sending notes to folks as inspiration strikes. But even that list hasn’t kept up with the making of new friends. So here’s the offer – if you’d be interested in getting a letter from me, send me an email at brenda@tiltedworld (dot com) with your address. I make no promises that a letter will actually be forthcoming. If you get one and are moved to write me back, I’d love that! But you’re under no obligation, either.