On Writing, Part I: Letters
I saw in a recent news report that experts predict my children’s generation will seldom, if ever, write as adults. Not with pens and paper that is.
Heartbreaking, isn’t it. I get a bit choked up even talking about the subject. Damnit, I want my children to grow up writing only the old fashioned way. I want them to breathe in that scrumptious wood smell of their new and perfectly sharpened No. 2 pencils during the first week of school. I want my daughter to one day write “I love horses” on her Trapper Keeper folder in bubbly cursive script with a purple-inked pen (although absolutely not past 8th grade – nothing good ever becomes of those high school girls with the bubbly purple handwriting).
Is it sadistic that I want my kids to get temporary arthritic cramps in their hands after they finish their 4th grade science reports on the habits of dung beetles? Shouldn’t they too get the pleasure of growing those disfiguring calloused bumps on their middle fingers? (Or in my case, on my ring finger since I hold my pen like a monkey in a sideshow act. Not kidding. The grocery store checkout clerks will confirm this and that it’s grotesque to witness me signing the credit card receipt.)
Back before I could blog, and even before I could let off teenage angst in my high school newspaper, I found writing outlets through traditional pen-and-paper means. One of those was through letters.
I had a pen pal in second grade. Her name was Emma. Emma lived in England. Her hobby was collecting rubbers. I’m not making this up. That’s what she wrote. “My hobby is collecting rubbers.” I read her letter slowly several times, always tripping over the bit about the rubbers. Why would she collect galoshes, I wondered. Why not umbrellas – I love umbrellas. I would own one hundred and ten umbrellas if I could!
I later read the letter aloud to my mom and brother. They could hardly pick themselves off the floor when I finished. I assumed they were as befuddled as I was by the absurdity of it all, since what I knew to be rubbers were hardly worthy of being collected. Because I could never get past her odd fetish for rain boots, my pen-palling soon fizzled.
Later, I learned that “rubbers” in England referred to pencil erasers. And at that time I collected them too. What good friends we might have been if only I could have translated Britainese. Much, much later I learned what “rubbers” referred to in America. And I can tell you that no one should be collecting those either.
During my young life whenever best friends moved away, I would carryon in typical melancholy fashion like my life was over. Soon after, I’d begin eagerly planning my first catch-up letter written on my favorite stationery. And I took it seriously. Very seriously. And I expected a response. When I was the one to move away in 3rd grade, I wrote diligently to all my old friends, including my close friend Susan. Each week the mailman brought no letter from Susan. The nerve! Finally, I’d had it. And I made sure to tell her so – in a letter of course. Even back then I knew that telling someone off in a letter is always the way to go.
Turns out, Susan kept her May 15,1984 promise to me and finally did write back. She wrote back to tell me in no uncertain terms to go f— myself. In Kid World, that translates to a lot of exclamation points!!!!! And probably ones that were not dotted in hearts or even open circles!!!!!!
“For your information, I moved away too!!!!!!!!! To Rapid City!!!!!!! I didn’t get your letter until now!!!!! It takes a long time to forward mail!!!!! I have a lot on my plate here with the whole new kid thing going on and I don’t have time to worry about the stupid perm you just got!!!!! Or about your stupid fluorescent green jelly shoes!!!!!!!!!! And I think you’re stupid!!! And I also think the Care Bears are stupid!!!! Leave me alone forever!!!!!!!!!!”
Ooh, burn. Yeah, the Care Bears part still stings a bit. See! You cannot convince me this letter would have had the same dramatic effect in a text message. Especially when considering she wrote it on rainbow stationery.