Celebrate My Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

Miles run today: 4.5

Chapters still needing revision before submitting to writing group (Sunday–eek!): 1

Handwritten letters most people write per month: 0

Happy birthday how oil are you now. Can You send a note back to me.

My son received this note from a first grade neighbor the other day. The paper is taped together, and the words are way, way up near the top, very carefully considered.

I love it.

I would not dare suggest that I believe we should all go back to the days before email and texting and dial-in conference calls and Skype.

However, I believe a handwritten letter is special.

I receive hundreds of emails each week. I love hearing about writer friends’ accomplishments through Facebook. I am thankful that I can interview people over the phone for work; it saves time and gas expense.

But when I walk out to the mailbox and once in a blue moon receive a handwritten note, my heart skips.

Back when I was away from home for the first time as a freshman at college, we had tiny mailboxes in the large dorm lobby. Each day, I would open the small door and hope for something from home or something from a friend away at another college.

When I saw my mother’s steady, loopy cursive or my father’s sharp, diagonal scroll, my grandmother’s warm script or my friend’s careful blend of cursive and print, the envelopes themselves made my day before I even ripped open the seal. The stamp or the sticker used to secure the envelope was often chosen with care.

After I opened the letter, I might be able to tell that the writer was short on time: their writing seemed labored and cut off quickly without completely finishing the thought.

Or perhaps the edge of her coffee cup had rested for a moment on the edge of the paper; I could picture my mom writing at the kitchen table, gazing out at the birds stopping by the birdbath right outside her window. Maybe my dad had been sitting in the recliner, resting the paper on a magazine and taking the time to describe a recent dinner before he lifted the leg rest and let his eyes grow heavy.

When I was away from college and home for the summer, my boyfriend sometimes sent letters with intricate drawings of things he had seen or places he had been.

Before we met, my husband spent many months in England away from his American girlfriend in the days before the Internet. He wrote pages and pages that made the trans-Atlantic voyage, laboriously penned while his friends were napping or headed out on the town.

As I addressed our Christmas cards last night, I thought about how glad I am to receive the photos and good wishes around the holiday season from friends and family far and wide.

But even better are the notes and cards that come without any warning or expectation. Almost no one is expected to write thank you notes or to send letters that make no demands; words that simply shoot the breeze.

What if you were to choose one lucky person to write to? Not for the holidays, but for today.

For all of you young people who can’t remember life before the Internet, choose someone older, someone who remembers the joy of receiving a letter. Or better yet, choose someone young who never checks his mailbox because there is never anything of value inside.

I urge you to take pen in hand tomorrow, Saturday, December 1, and write to a neighbor, friend or family member. Tell them anything: thank you for existing, what you did last weekend, how you think about that trip you took together two years ago whenever you need a pick-me-up.

I guarantee that when that person opens the mailbox, she will smile. And you will be the reason.