Saturday, 15 November 2008

Memories in an electronic age


I was prompted to write this post after reading a post by Dianne, where she talks about reading text messages from a 'Celtic knight', a former love in her life. They are on her phone and she is loathe to delete them.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in my life, my mother is spending time reading correspondence and diaries from my father. It is time travel, of sorts.

This is where 'real mail' has it hands down over text and even email.

Real mail has feel and texture. It has smells, native and introduced. It contains hairs, rose petals, newspaper clippings and all the smudges and corrections of a letter well considered.

I have some letters written by a character we knew is Scotland, a real character in all senses of the word, Jimmy Douglas. Typed on blue aerograms, they capture so much of Jimmy's character and I regularly enjoy pulling them out and re-reading them.

My mother tells me that, in going through my father's things, she has found every letter that I sent him.

Next time some mindless gastropod uses that belittling and thoughtless designation of 'snail mail' to refer to real mail, do what you should do to any gastropod: hit it with a brick.


  1. Lee dear, I am so pleased that I inspired such a beautiful post.
    Yes, hand written letters are so much more personal,the warm curves of your handwriting, you can add a pressed flower, a spray of perfume, a lipstick kiss, the texture of the paper is so tactile and the even the sound of of the paper itself is inviting long after the edges have worn.
    I sent him many letters, there is a poem on my blog about them, all I have from him are those text messages and my memories.
    It would be lovely to have them in a letter, I would have them tied in a bundle with a pretty piece of ribbon and keep them in a special place. ♥
    His words do still have meaning and the sentiment was there, so I have to be grateful for what I have. ♥ :)

  2. I still keep a huge pile of love letters exchanged from our high school time which I keep in a travel bag in the store..Every time we move house, I feel like throwing them away, but all the wonderful handwritten stuffs..even the time marked on the stamps bring so much memory to me..I still keep it nicely. Some letters have blurred writings because I cried reading them..and those are priceless!

  3. Yes, nothing beats are a real letter. They're more special. They have soul.

  4. I love coming across papers filled with my mother's handwriting. I save cards from my children, love letters, notes from the kids at school. To have in your hands a piece of paper inscribed by someone is almost to touch their hand...

  5. I love real mail... sadly, I receive so little of it. I try to send it every so often - usually cards with a letter tucked inside. There are few pleasures greater than finding an envelope in your mailbox, addressed in handwriting your recognize, signed with X's and O's.

  6. great post! i have written so many real letters in my life, and I carry many handwritten letters, some tied with ribbons, in boxes from home to home when moving. i so agree with you, lee. they are much more than the written word. i read one recently that contained a feather a friend picked up on the gulf coast beach where she was visiting. it was the last letter she sent before she died months later of cancer. i see my mother's penmanship on envelopes and am touched, remembering her when she was strong and able, when she sent me a letter every week, years ago before dementia and age claimed so much of her. now i must be content with only her voice, one i want to record so that i am never without its sound and love.

    a part of me is sad for the younger generation who has never known this part of life. computer and cell phone communications are all they have known. they are missing so much of life's substance. :(

  7. So true, Lee, so true. My collection of handwritten letters spans more than one hundred years, many of them written by ancestors who died long before I came along. Many others written to me by friends from childhood. They are precious to me. I've often thought how sad it is that people so rarely handwrite letters anymore. Printing out an email just doesn't have the same feel as does a letter actually written and signed by the sender.

    That being said, I readily admit to being a "mindless gastropod" because I frequently use the term "snail mail". In my defense, it is not in any way a slur against handwritten letters. In this country, it is a slur against the postal service that often takes longer than a snail to deliver mail just a short distance away. Oddly enough, they always seem to deliver the bills to me on time though.

  8. I am thinking that things that are being really importantly considered are best being chiselled in stone. I sthis not the message of the Temples of Khaduraho?

  9. A lovely,romantic post, Lee, and if you don't fancy being called 'romantic', I'm sorry, but that's what this is, in the best possible way. And so many comments in the same vein.

    It gives me an idea. I have begun in my head to write letters to each of my sons, to leave for them to read after I have gone. They would probably have been stored in my computer, to which my executors (sons) will have access. Now I think I should take the trouble to write them out be hand.

    And here's a thought: if I draft them on the computer, then copy them out by hand, will the quality be different from composing and writing them entirely by hand?

  10. That's a lovely idea Judith.

    No, I don't think composing them on the computer will be a problem.

  11. When I studied for my first degree (like I have second and third degree), I used to post a lot of motivation postcards to my best friend, she really through a hard time on those days. I stop posting any mail to her when I was posting to a rural area at Sabah, where they don't have any postman, fortunaly they have post

    One day, I went to my best friend house,and had some girlie talk in her room, then she open her cupboard and..walla..she had pasted all my post cards inside the cupboard, and she said that she really miss all my words that had encouraged her a lot, she even memorizes some of my writing or poem that I wrote to her, including some of quotes.

    I also miss that real mail...

  12. I do agree. It is a bit worrying to think about how many memories could be erased in a harddrive accident. On the otherhand, email and SMS does capture those little interactions with people ("don't forget the milk" etc.) which might not seem worth keeping, but are nevertheless a record of one's life and the people in it.

  13. i am a pretty good aim with a brick! if my home were on fire my precious box of old letters from children, parents, grandparents, friends, old & new, with us still or gone forever is one of only two things i would wish to rescue. photographs being the first. Precious indeed *ruthie*


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