I am hopelessly sentimental about a handful of things, letters being very high on that short list. It’s easy to be ruthless with an email and consign it forever to the dreaded Trash folder. But a letter? That’s another thing entirely.
If you think enough of me to rummage about for stationery, put pen to paper, address and stamp an envelope, and wade through a metaphorical two feet of snow to get to the mailbox, I feel justified in treasuring your letter. It’s the tactile sensation of holding in my hand something you’ve held in yours and seeing your handwriting. Folded up and tucked away someplace safe, a letter can be revisited again and again. It’s a warmly personal experience in a way that texts and emails will never replace.
I feel such a thrill when the mail arrives and I spy something so easily detectable in the stack of bills as – can it be? – A letter! A note! For me?
One family story for you and then I’ll share a few notable letters. When my mother was a little girl, she found a stack of letters exchanged by her parents during their courtship. Inspired, she proceeded to play mailman by delivering a letter to each mailbox along the street. One by one, the letters were returned by the neighbors to her astonished and mortified mother. I guess this is like hitting the “reply to all” button accidentally.
If it weren’t for letters, we wouldn’t know that we dodged a bullet in the casting of “Gone With The Wind.”
From her letters now documented in the book, The Scarlett Letters, we know now that, inconceivably, Margaret Mitchell preferred Charles Boyer to Clark Gable for the role of Rhett Butler: “And I wish Charles Boyer didn’t have a French accent for he’s my choice for Rhett.” Clark Gable “has never been the choice for Rhett down here.” Quelle horreur! Her choice for Scarlett was fellow Georgia girl, Miriam Hopkins.
One heaves a giant sigh of relief that casting of the movie was in other more capable hands.
Letters offer a glimpse into the courage and conviction of public figures. Here an excruciatingly polite First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the Daughters of the American Revolution after their famous refusal to allow Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall:
Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley’s admirably succinct response to Klansman and National States’ Rights Party Chairman Edward Fields who wanted the recently renewed investigation into the 16th Street Church Bombing case suspended. Note the quotation marks around “Dr.” Punctuation has such power, non?
Can you imagine the love story behind an envelope adorned with this much care?
And to Miss Gertrude Stein, no rose is a rose is a rose is a rose from this publisher.
An indescribably beautiful gift to a bereaved husband:
Seems a shame somehow to banish some of my favorite letters and cards to the drawer. A few of these merit framing and there are still one or two unadorned walls in this old Barn. Another project, perhaps?
Do you spy the barn owl in the pile above? Have I mentioned how much I love owls? Well, I really do, so imagine my delight when I came across this image combining two favorite things:
Thanks for reading,