Saturday, April 14, 2007

Box Full of Letters

Jazzy coffee cup cozy

Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk (55% superfine alpaca, 23% silk, 22% merino wool; worsted weight) and Bernat Satin (100% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colors: Cranberry and silk
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colors: 14 and 15 (shades of blue)
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

My letters for the Knitterly Letter Swap departed this afternoon for parts known. I included coffee cup cozies I knitted as nice surprises for my pen-pals. I've made enough of them that I can whip them out fairly quickly. I'm getting better at them, although eventually I need to try making them with circs and dpns rather than on straights.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter, whether by hand or electronically. With the ease and speed of e-mail, what reasons do we have these days to sit down with pen and paper? For the purposes of this swap I didn't have any stationery until I went out and bought some. Initially I thought it might be a frivolous purchase, but after writing two letters this morning, I like the idea of having it on hand for future correspondence. Now more than ever there is something special about sending and receiving a handwritten letter. The most valuable resource all of us have is time. To devote yours to writing a letter is to tell someone they're worth it.

I've mentioned several times that I love getting mail. I love getting e-mail too. Seeing messages in bold at the top of my inbox is a simple pleasure as long as I'm not wading through a bunch of spam. But "snail mail" is hard to beat. There's the daily excitement in opening the mailbox to see what has come. More often than not there's nothing good awaiting, but all it takes is one piece of worthwhile mail to make me happy.

As a kid I collected baseball player autographs by writing letters. There was even a book with the home addresses of every past and present player. It was a thrill to come home from school and find out if anything came for me. There was no home delivery in my village of 700, so sometimes I got to check our PO box, which looked something like this. (The photo is of a bank, but the door is pretty close to what our box looked like. I think ours had two, maybe three, dials on it.)

As far as I was concerned, the mail always brought good things. Obviously I've learned that isn't the case when you're an adult, but I'm still eager to see if anything good has come. I'm practically abuzz when waiting for packages I know are on the way to reach me.

But back to the issue of letters... I've been working on cleaning up my apartment and getting it packed for my move in May. One of the rare benefits of being a pack rat is that you save things that you might otherwise have thrown away. I've found some cards my grandmother sent me once I was no longer living at home. While some of the cards just have her signature, I've been thrilled to find some she wrote short notes in. The messages are basic, so they have purely sentimental value. Still, it's nice to know that I have them, especially since she died a couple years ago.

Letters make personal connections that old e-mails don't (or at least they don't yet). They're more tangible in a way that e-mails, even in printout form, aren't. The paradox of the internet is that it connects people more than ever yet disconnects us too. E-mails are great, but they can't beat letters. Ditto for e-cards. They're nice to receive, but they lack the personality of those that show up in your mailbox, don't they? It's the personal touch behind something that physically passes from one location to another that makes it more special. It's everything: the handwriting, the postmark, and the paper.

Do schools have pen-pal assignments any more? I remember having one, perhaps in second grade. His name was Merrill, and he lived in Iowa. (I think the only reason I remember his name is because Merrill Lynch sponsored a University of Dayton basketball tournament, so it stuck because it was an unusual name shared with a financial management company.) I don't think we wrote other than that one time.

I have no idea if I'll keep exchanging letters with my two pals beyond the swap obligation. Maybe our contact will end after this swap or transition to e-mail. Whatever the case, I hope that the swap has reminded me of the virtues of writing letters and spurs me to do it more often.


At 7:24 AM, Blogger Karen said...

How nice that you have your letters written and ready to go! I am still a big fan of the hand-written letter, and have blank greeting cards and a box of funny greeting to mail to friends and family. Email is fast and convenient, but I still find great pleasure in a smooth, fine-tipped pen and putting my words on paper; thinking them out ahead of time without benefit of a backspace button.

At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't beat going to the mail box and finding something personal from a friend. I also love getting mail, but am really slack about sending it. Email is just that much more immediate.

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

the cozies look great, mark - good job getting them finished along w/ the letters...your pals will be pleased for sure : )

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't receiving letters just wonderful? thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for participating in the swap!


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