Voices from the Past – Deleted?

I was looking through some of my mother’s things the other day, in particular a gold damask clutch full of letters and telegrams exchanged between my parents and IMG_20140514_0003grandparents as Mum and Dad were about to get married – in a hurry as was often the case in those days… 1957. More than fifty-seven years ago. That’s Nana and Gramps Mingo in the picture – aren’t they cute?

Each of their voices came across so loud and clear in their writing – it was almost as good as having a video or audio recording, yet they’re only words on paper. So I got to thinking – where is that kind of record being kept these days? letter writingTexts, email, phone calls/messages –  all are either deleted or forgotten about as soon as they’ve been read/heard. Seems  correspondence we keep and re-read is yet another casualty of our disposable world. Nothing lasts forever these days – coffee makers, stoves, fridges, washers, dryers, clothing, even pictures, and, sadly, lasting, honest person-to-person communication – ie. letters.

As authors, we infuse our fiction with lots of emotional detail from our real lives; our books will live on after we’re gone, but it’s not at all the same as writing a straight-little girl at mailboxfrom-the-heart note to somebody. It doesn’t take long to dash one off; on the rare occasion I write a letter, I often type it, simply because my handwriting is so atrocious – even Don can barely read my grocery lists.

I suppose the Internet was supposed to put an end to paper, but that hasn’t kept my filing basket from filling up with meaningless stuff. I’d prefer letters. Last week, I spent ten minutes digging up an address, then another ten writing a letter to legendary kids’ author, Patricia MacLachlan, whose work I’ve admired for years. Her book, Edward’s Eyes, is so incredibly perfect that I had to tell her. imagesI wonder if she’ll write back to me…

I miss getting letters, and I’m happy I’ve hung onto some old favourites – it’s so lovely to hear people’s voices long after they’ve died. Don’t you agree?

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 Voices from the Past – Deleted?

  1. Laura Best says:

    As you know I’m also a fan of Patricia MacLachlan’s work. Have not read “Edward’s Eyes.” At least not yet.

  2. Darlene says:

    I print off the letters emailed to me as I do like to have a record .Even though it is wasteful and takes up a lot of space. I have the letter my dad wrote to my mom when I was born. How special. She was in the city and he was looking after the farm. It was winter so he couldn´t get into the city to see her so he wrote her a letter. So glad I have it. I agree, we will have lost some of these things through technology.

    • janlcoates says:

      Hi, Darlene – I suppose you’re soaking up some sun as we speak… That’s so great that your parents thought to keep that letter. Hard to imagine such a circumstance these days…

  3. Vijaya says:

    Ah, letters! Love them … grew up on them because our family was fractured. But with several transcontinental moves, I’ve lost those as well.

    • janlcoates says:

      Hi, Vijaya: I’ve lived in the same house for almost 30 years, so no moves for me – yet… It’s hard to know though which mementoes to keep. I think so much of what I do hang onto won’t be cherished beyond my lifetime, so I guess we save stuff for our own pleasure, although I like to think I’m saving some of it for my kids (now 22 and 25).

  4. mirkabreen says:

    I have given up on getting hand-written letters in the mail, and I’m even guiltier of not sending them. But the other day I opened the Outlook file I have where I put my late father’s Emails, and it was as if he was still there, writing to me.
    In some states the teaching of script writing is no longer required. The scary part of this is that a new generation will not be able to red old hand-written notes and letter when they find them in our attics. It would require an expert who studied script… Imagine.

    • janlcoates says:

      Interesting. I taught shorthand for a couple of years, a “language” few young people would even have heard of these days. I can sort of see the practicality in getting rid of handwriting in this keyboarding world. So great that your dad lived long enough to send you email – my parents died without ever using a computer.

  5. I love getting emails from young readers, but a few weeks ago I got my first fan letter on real paper, and I literally shrieked with excitement. There’s something truly special about getting to hold those words in your hands.

  6. janlcoates says:

    That’s very cool. I’ve only ever gotten written messages (and sometimes art) from students after I’ve visited their classroom, not actually in the mail. It takes so much more time (especially for kids) to handwrite (print) a note, and it seems so much more “thought-full.”

  7. I don’t know how I missed this post. I’m a big fan of snail mail, though like others I’ve let it slide. Back in the day, there was nothing like waiting for the mail to arrive and hoping for a letter from a distant penpal (or a story acceptance!). I never could have imagined that someday those same penpals would be a flick of the keyboard away. Thanks for bringing back fun memories. I’ll be adding Edward’s Eyes, as well as The Power of Harmony to my reading list.

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