Correspondence, the old fashioned way

March 19, 2012 |  Category:   life parenting remembering

Forgot I took a picture of these postcards the girls sent from our trip to LA to various friends, neighbors and family. It’s kind of amazing that the notion of writing postcards is still in their vocabulary, considering, but I suppose we’re not a very gadget-heavy household as far as the kids are concerned.


So much of their childhood is different from mine – the absence of a certain carefree innocence as dictated by how times have changed since I was a kid maybe, yet other stuff feels exactly the same too. I can see myself in them sometimes. I remember stuff that happened when I was 8. I was reading the some of the same books that Mia is reading now: A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, The Little House on the Prairie. I remember being thrilled at getting a piece of mail, a letter from a friend, covered in stickers on the envelope. Writing in those same black and white composition notebooks for school. Practicing the piano after dinner. Performing songs with your class up on that school stage in an auditorium which really hasn’t changed much since you went to school in the 70s and 80s. It’s all the same stuff, really.
So it’s comforting when you think about it, how some things about childhood haven’t changed in 30 years since I was a kid. I hope my kids will remember what it was like to write and receive letters and postcards when they become adults, but I wonder if they’ll be the last generation that does. I still have a a few boxes of letters that I’ve exchanged with friends over the years that date back to the 80s and 90s, back before email, back before cell phones and texting, back when it was the only way to keep in touch with friends. I pull them out once every 5 years or so and marvel at the length of those letters. I don’t know if it’s something about the medium or the length of time in between correspondences, but we used to say so much, write whole stories and put a little bit of ourselves in every letter. We shared it with no one except the person we wrote it for. I suppose we’ve adapted to how things are now, sent in truncated texts and not even writing out whole words. Can’t remember the last time I received an actual letter (and I’m not counting Christmas cards). I smile every time I see one for the girls in the pile of junk, bills and catalogs.

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  • ruhama March 19, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Have you heard of It’s a nifty website that facilitates ‘real mail’ for people all over the world! I signed up and sent about three or four before life got in the way, but I got postcards from Russia, Germany and the Netherlands.

  • Cecilia Madden March 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

    one of my closest friends is a pro at sending handwritten notes and post cards. she does it when she’s procrastinating on a project, she says. don’t you love that? i’m trying to get better at it myself. writing to a specific person in a private format seems extra-vulnerable to me, which is probably why i don’t do it as much.

  • Atsuko March 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I enjoy receiving a hand written card. It gives me a different meaning compared to e-mail. So, once in a while I write to my friends with no specific meaning. This post reminded me of the days I was exchanging letters and cards with Pen Pals as part of school project. I do not know how they ended, but I had a great time.

  • sarah March 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Postcards are the best! Perhaps it’s a bit goofy, but when my boyfriend and I travel I send postcards back to our apartment from every random place we stop. I love getting home and reliving the little bits of information that I jot down on the back of the cards. I’ve stored them all on a huge 3″ ring and it’s fun to see the collection of our travels grow. I’m not the scrapbooking type and the bf takes all the pictures so besides the blog it’s my little way of journaling our adventures.
    The girls will love looking back at their collection when they are older I’m sure!

  • Sophia March 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Nostalgia is a bitter sweet pill for adults…

  • benson March 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    we recently sold our home and are in the waiting game before the next chapter of our lives. That being said; when packing up boxes and emptying dresser drawers I came across letters written from friends from twenty years ago up to a few years ago. I collected up each friend’s correspondence and sent it back to them…almost like journal entries from days of raising babies, dealing with teenagers, etc…that my friends could read and remember.
    I also had written childrens books and had a website with the main focus on kids receiving mail from our company–it IS such a joy to receive a piece of mail addressed to YOU when you are a child.

  • Theresa March 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    My husbands family are very old fashioned… No computer, no email address… so we get letters and holiday cards from them. I too always send holiday cards and postcards when I’m on holiday. I love getting them myself so… The Swedish postal service started an iPhone postcard service where you take a picture w/your phone, add some text and then they send it for you as a postcard and bill you. Convenient!

  • kay w. March 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    oh man, charlotte’s web. i can’t count the number of times i read charlotte’s web, or sarah, plain and tall. i obsessed over both those books so much to the point that i had to tape the pages back into the library copies i borrowed over and over. i remember one of my very first trip desires to be maine, because of what i had read about in sarah, plain and tall – decades later and i still have yet to go.

  • Ayetwobee March 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I remember when I was in grade school we used to get letter from random kids at other schools. They were always addressed something like: “Any 6th grade class in any school in Toronto”…. these letters actually got through and they were requests for pen pals. They always had a small school photo in it of the kid making the request. I loved that!

    In 6th grade I had a friend who was an illegal immigrant from the Ukraine. She was forced to move all over the country – running. We kept in touch by letters and photos for about 5 or six years and she ended up all the way in Israel. I still have all of those letters.

  • kathy March 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I am actually re-reading the whole ‘A Wind in the Door’ series right now. I loved it when I was young, so I thought I’d see if it was still good – and it is!
    I still have letters from old camp boyfriends and a couple of great notes passed between my best friend and I during study hall – they are hilarious to re-read! I try to send postcards as much as possible when I travel. I know that it’s easier to e-mail, but it’s so special to recieve a vibrant post-card, and as my old letters and notes prove, they’re great to read years down the road!

  • Chloe March 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Very good point, Jenna. I’m a teen and I have lots of people I write to frequently. I think it’s important to have balance between the old and new and I have faith snail mail will live on.

  • Meghann Chapman March 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Great post. My husband and I talk on the subject often.

    I’ve actually, recently, started designing and printing my own blank cards to send just-because notes to close friends and family. I love getting letters in the mail, rather than junk–I think we all do.

    Plus, if someone sets aside the extra time the hand-write and mail the letter, it just seems more special. The thought that the someone special actually held that same card and physically put the ink on the paper makes it a touch more personal, I believe.

  • Darcy March 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    wonderful post. in high school i had a boyfriend who lived in another state, we would write pages and pages back and forth to each other. it would take two or three days for them to arrive and our parents never let us talk on the phone so everything was always a little behind. which was funny because in high school you change so fast, i remember reading a letter on friday and thinking “wow, was i really that cranky on monday? did i really think that band was cool?” anyways i still have all of them in my parents’ attic. a few bankers’ boxes full. i feel like i should give them back to him (the ex-boyfriend) as they probably say so much more about him then about me. but what an awkward conversation – “hey, i have boxes of your old letters, do you want them?” sounds a little crazy.

  • Jenna March 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    @Darcy, I wondered about returning some of these letter to friends, but I am sadly not in touch with most of them. I think someone did that for me, return a letter. Mark and I have all the letters we wrote to each other one summer 20 years ago. It’s sort of cringe worthy to read them though!

  • Selkie March 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

    My son proclaims “MAILBOX REVOLUTION!” It is a joy, because it keeps me on the hunt for interesting postcards/cards for him, as he is always writing someone…

  • Anne March 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    @Darcy @Jenna, I just wrote about my dear friend, who returned all of the postcards and letters I’d sent her over the years. My dad read to her my final letter just days before she passed away. It’s truly a gift, to get back what you’ve sent out over the years – if you can track down those folks I think returning them (and maybe keeping copies for yourself) is a wonderful thing to do. If you’d like to see: