Day 40: The lost art of letter writing

Scott Stantis cartoon from the Chicago Tribune, March 13, 2010

When the mail comes at home, Olivia always wants to know if is she has received any mail. She sees Tom, the postman, pull up and hurriedly run to the box to pull out the day’s mail and search through it. Most of the time she is disappointed, but she never gives up. Growing up I remember the joy of receiving a letter or a postcard of someone I knew was travelling. Recently when I was in France, I sent postcards to many people: Olivia, William, Beth, my mom, my in-laws, and every one of my Language Arts students from 2009-10. I included everyone, except me.

A few years ago, long before I had a computer with the internet, my mom sent me letter or rather a series of letters imploring me to write. I responded poorly telling her it was just easier to call and catch up by phone; and I did not improve my letter writing.  A few years later, in 1996, I read an article in the newspaper or a news magazine, I forget which, where the post office was considering upgrading their mail-scanning equipment and lamented that the current mail-scanning equipment was underutilized because it could read handwritten letters as well as cursive writing. I tried to write more letters, but I fell back on old habits and continued calling. I have sent postcards when we have vacationed; and when I have travelled to the NEA Annual Conventions, to DC in 2008 and San Diego in 2009, we even got a mailbox for the cottage to receive the postcards I sent. If you are reading, please send a post card to the cottage:

Weaver Cottage
2596 East Lake Shore Drive
Grayling, Michigan 49738

it would be great to hear from you.

Nevertheless, computers and cell phones have changed how we communicate. Last spring, Scott Stantis, the editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, drew the cartoon to the left. It was in response to the US Postal Service possible elimination of Saturday mail service to save money. I read recently that the cost of sending a first class letter will increase by two cents. It is still a bargain. Sadly, our youth may never understand the joy of receiving a letter or appreciate reading through a newspaper on a rainy day, or any day for that matter. It is simply easier to watch, listen, or call. 

Writing this blog takes time and I enjoy it. Many days I begin writing with a theme or idea in mind and it changes by the time I actually sit down and write; or as I go about my day, I think of writing possibilities. Either way, it is fun and the result is what you are reading, I hope. 

Wednesday evening, I sat down to write my mom and Julie, my stepmother who does not have the internet, and I wrote about our time at the cottage and what we are doing. I have two letters written and I need to get to Walgreens to print some pictures this morning before putting them in the mail. Below in excerpt from the letter to Julie – it was stared on June 24 and finished July 7:  

Dear Julie,
Thanks for calling to check in last night. The storm was scary. I have been watching your weather which has been very hot. I hope you and the cats are faring well. Staying cool and out of the hot weather.
–  2 weeks later – July 7
As you know, we are at the cottage, now. William and I drove over Saturday 7/3. It is almost time to get the kids to sleep and I have a little quite time as I watch Olivia in the lake. Tonight the lake is very calm – no waves at all and hardly any wind. It was been warm and humid which is odd for here. Warm sunny days and cool nights are the norm. But, it has been a warmer year with many flowers and trees blooming earlier than normal.    

I finished the letter and included what we have been doing and the day’s activities much like a blog post, except only shorter and handwritten.  

The new grill works very well - BBQ chicken!

We spent Wednesday in search of a grill. I had successfully lobbied Beth to get a new grill for the cottage. I struggled grilling with the grill we had; I either burned or undercooked the meat or whatever I grilled. Grandpa, William, Olivia, and I loaded in the car and drove to Gaylord in search of a grill. The have a Lowe’s, Home Depot, and a Wal-Mart. Our first stop was Lowe’s. It would also be our last. We found what we were looking for and bought it. I like shopping with Grandpa – time is money. The sales person asked if we wanted one already built and I was worried that it raise the cost, but it did not and I was saved from an afternoon of cursing, sweating, and building a grill. The possibility of grilling for dinner improved. Some disassembly was required to load the grill in Grandpa’s truck and we drove home. Once home, we quickly unloaded the grill, reassembled and set it up, and tested it. It worked. William ran inside and came out with a handwritten sign – FREE – for the old grill and he dragged and pulled it to the front of the lane. By the time I left for the grocery, less than an hour later, it was gone.  

Grandpa and the kids enjoy the inaugural BBQ chicken meal!

Dinner included BBQ Chicken – legs and breasts, tomato mozzarella salad, and cucumbers and red onion salad. The grill cooked well and Olivia pronounced it the best chicken, ever. I loved the ringing endorsement but I think she was pulling my leg, my chicken leg. Beth and Grandma missed dinner they were shopping in Traverse City and got home late. The kids were tired and it was a quiet evening. William watched TV and Olivia went for a swim. I wrote a couple of letters and the kids were in bed before the sun was completely gone.  

The day was over and it really counted. I have more letters to write and other tasks I have avoided so far, but it has been a great summer. Forty-two days remain – they could possibly be the best days ever.

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