As a child, I remember waiting for the daily sound of the brass mail slot in the front door to squeak open. The mailman would push the envelopes through. As they hit the oak floor in the hallway, I’d run to see what had come that day. Sometimes, an envelope would get stuck in the opening and would be dangling by a corner in the slot.
I had pen pals when I was young. From the time I learned to write, I exchanged letters with people. I use the term “letters” loosely as sometimes they were nothing more than a few words, carefully penned, the way we were taught in school. Remember penmanship? I wrote thank you notes for birthday presents, after Christmas, for all the packages that would arrive from Grandparents and cousins. In February there were Valentines.
The bulk of my letter writing, a practice that extended into my teen years was with three special women, my Grandmother on my Mom’s (the Brennans) side, her sister, who we called Aunty Mil, and a cousin, Eleanor Cleare, who was their contemporary. Every week, from the time I was about 5, I would write each one of them a letter. Each week, I’d get 3 letters back.
I didn’t think of it as unusual then but now I find it remarkable. Even more remarkable was that my cousin Eleanor particularly, saved every letter I ever wrote her. They were found when in 1998, she passed away at the age of 101. And more remarkable than that, she saved every letter anyone ever wrote her. Eleanor was born in 1896. Image the exchanges that must have taken place between people who lived through and were living through World Wars, the Roaring Twenties, Great Depressions and countless other life altering events. The most intimate details and thoughts of people’s lives carefully saved in shoeboxes, neatly stacked in her spare room. Handwritten, some in the most exquisite penmanship, with ink pens, tiny dots of ink misplaced on paper while lifting the nib of the pen from the inkwell.
Thinking about this history of putting pen to paper, imagining the people keeping in touch through this simple act, inspired my new line of notecards at My Maine Farm Girl. Notecards just seemed to fit the MMFG theme of enjoying simple things. What’s simpler than sitting down and writing a few words on a piece of paper. The act itself rewards me with the opportunity to reflect. It’s like meditating with a pen in your hand. I think I’ll do more of that this year.
As Valentines Day is almost here, I get a little nostalgic. I can’t remember the last time I got a Valentine in the mail. Maybe people don’t even send them anymore. But I’ve decided the 3 women who, over the years sent me literally thousands of letters, including Valentines, are my all time favorite Valentines.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your mailbox is stuffed!