When’s the last time you got a letter in the mail?

Have you ever found yourself admiring the beautiful boxes of writing paper? Say, in the book aisle at Winners, or when you’re waiting in line at the cash? Chances are you smiled, then put it back, realizing that even if you did take the time to write somebody a real letter, they’d probably respond by email – maybe even text, if they were really in a hurry.

Today I finally got around to reading through a bundle of letters I inherited from my mother, who died in 2006. Immediately, I wished I could go back 25 years or so, and become a fanatical letter writer, as a means of reminding myself what I did during those 25 years:)  I read love letters written by my parents, when they were living apart, but about  to get married (they were the ages my kids are now – 20 and 22); letters from my grandparents to my mum before they really knew her, containing such nuggets as, “true love is the greatest of riches”; letters from me to my parents while I was a university student (ye gads – did I really spill my guts about my various romances to my parents?!)  The bundle even contained several telegrams (imagine!) Dad sent to Mum in 1957, the cheapest means of quick communication at a distance, I suppose.When I was a student, Nana Mingo typed (because of arthritis) me a letter faithfully every single week. She was fond of including newspaper clippings she thought might be useful, too. Reading those letters today brings her voice back loud and clear, as though she’s still here.

There’s something so intimate about handwritten letters, and it’s a sad thing that they’ve all but become extinct. For sure, the hundreds of email letters I’ve sent over the past decade won’t ever be read again, by anybody. Not that I usually have anything profound or earth-shattering to say, but email is still a record of life, communication, emotions, relationships – at least temporarily, until the recipient deletes it:) Love letters in the sand, sort of.

I made a research trip to the Nova Scotia Archives last week. In perusing various documents, mostly deeds, from the 1750s, I came upon the signature of an ancestor, Jean Frederic Menegeaux (Mingo today). He had simply served as witness to a deed, but I marvelled that I could (via microfilm) study his handwriting, centuries later.  Now if only he’d kept a diary…but that’s a whole different kettle of fish…When’s the last time somebody wrote you a letter? Do you have boxes of letters stashed away? Would you be happy to have somebody read them years from now? Hmm…

About janlcoates

I'm a Nova Scotia children's author. My first picture book, "Rainbows in the Dark", was published in 2005, by Second Story Press. My young adult novel, "A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk" was published in the fall of 2010, by Red Deer Press.
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10 Responses to When’s the last time you got a letter in the mail?

  1. Darlene says:

    I seldom get letters in the mail anymore, but I have one friend who will send me a note now and then and I will also send her notes. Just because we know how good it feels. I also get a number of post cards from travelling friends. They delight me when they arrive. I have a box of letters found in my parent’s house. In it is the letter my Dad wrote to my Mom when she gave birth to me. (He couldn’t leave the farm so she stayed in the city with her parents for the first couple of weeks.) It is one of my most precious possessions.

    • janlcoates says:

      Love your story about your Dad having to stay on the farm – it’s the type of detail that might find its way into a story someday…It’s exciting to get postcards from friends who are travelling, but I have to confess I rarely, if ever, think to send one. Thanks for checking in!

  2. Audrey McFadden says:

    Hi Jan. I was a good friend of your mum and dads, as in, we all worked at the Royal Bank on the corner of Prince and Church St. in Truro We spend ,many evenings playing cards when Nancy was a baby, no need fir sitters when there was a deck of cards!!.
    I also have letters that I read every once in awhile that I have stashed in my cedar chest. I still write notes to my mum who is in a nursing home in Debert. She is 98. I am sure she still thinks about going to the end of the lane to pick up the mail, and hoping for a letter from someone. Audrey. .

    • janlcoates says:

      So nice to hear from you, Audrey! Nice image of your mum going to the end of the lane to check the mail – I’ll bet it makes her day when she gets one of your notes – 98! Wow – I can’t imagine…Dad always played cards with his friends, but we weren’t a family that played cards much growing up. Hard to believe Mum’s been gone 6 years, and Dad 9 – I still miss them every day…

  3. Audrey McFadden says:

    oh oh!! I didnt proof read my comment for spelling errors!!

  4. I have letters written to me from my Dad’s mom – my grandmother, who introduced me to tea and toast ‘n butter at a very young age. She passed many years ago, but those letters are safely tucked away. I also have even the envelopes from my Mom’s mom – my other grandmother – whose script was beautiful – loopy and elegant. I’ve used them to show my students how vitally important and impressive handwriting can and should be!

    • janlcoates says:

      Hi, Carole: I immediately shared your teachable letter idea with my neighbour, who’s a grade 2 teacher. It’s hard to believe handwriting isn’t really even part of the curriculum now, isn’t it? I learned to take shorthand when I was 21, and my handwriting has been horrible ever since, barely legible actually. Hope you’re enjoying this warm summer!

  5. Laura Best says:

    It’s been ages since I got a letter. I probably still have some in the attic from a penpal I had when I was 11. We reconnected about twenty years ago. Now we’re down to sending Christmas cards.

    What a wonderful gift these letters are, Jan.

    • janlcoates says:

      I’ve even stopped sending Christmas cards – maybe I’ll start writing letters again when Shannon’s in France next year. I always had a penpal, too, but those letters are long gone. Are you working every day? I’m at the lake a fair bit…

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