Some time back, I read The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson. Yes, it is true that the book has been published since around 2004, I am just really slow at getting my hands on books I guess.
Anyway, the book is based on a true story and is told using the epistolary style of writing, which simply means that it is written in form of letters and emails. It is the story of two sisters, Olivia and Maddie and how these two are so different in terms of wants, life circumstances and so on. Olivia is single woman, independent, a real go getter, and she works as a Hollywood producer. Maddie on the other hand is happily married and soon to become a mother for the first time. Sadly, tragedy strikes when Maddie is diagnosed with leukemia.
Olivia writes letters and emails to family and friends as she describes her job, her goals, her failures, and her childhood memories of her sister. Her letters also reveal how she feels utterly helpless, filled with anger and totally bewildered over her sister’s illness, which seem to be rather natural emotions to be experiencing under the circumstances.
While the book is a good read, sad in many parts, hilarious in a few others, it’s not so much the storyline that brings me to this post, but instead the idea of letter writing. I am not talking about emails, but real, “hold the pen or pencil in your hand, written on paper kind of letters” and then of course putting them in an envelope, addressing and stamping it and sending it off into the post, where hopefully within a few days, it will be delivered to its intended destination.
When I was a kid, during summer vacations, I remember how in order to stay in touch with my friends, we would exchange letters. This was years and years before text messaging and email when a person had to use pen and paper. Of course, we could have phoned each other, and I am not totally certain as to why we spent more time writing letters than talking on the phone, perhaps it was a parental thing, and not being allowed to use the phone, I really don’t remember.
I always looked forward to getting mail, especially from my friends. There was something very exciting to see your name and address printed on the envelope. I don’t know how it is in today’s world, whether kids find themselves getting unsolicited mail through the post or not. But, back in my childhood days, it wasn’t very common, or at least for me.
After getting the letter and reading all the wonderful information it contained, then came the task of writing the reply. I wish I had kept all my letters from childhood. How fun it would be to read again all those cool letters and to see bits of time stopped forever on the page. I admit that as I grew older, friendships changed and as I went into adulthood, I lost contact with my friends from school. That seems to be the way of the world, we change and go in different directions. That doesn’t mean our friends were bad people, it simply means they changed, too. But, that isn’t to say that one will never meet them again a little further down the line. Life can be unpredictable that way.
Back when I was dating my husband, he would send me letters. Now, computers had been invented and so had the internet, but neither of us had gotten into the computer scene, so good old standby of pen and paper did the trick. I do have a few of those letters he sent me, and it is very nice to sit back and relive those precious feelings and thoughts that come to a person when their relationship is in its infancy stage.
Now back the book, one thing that I really liked about it is at the end of it, Robinson writes some personal commentary of her own. I especially liked this: My sister’s letters are in a box under my bed, and from time to time I reread them, mostly just to see her handwriting on the girly pink stationery or the fringed lined paper ripped from a spiral notebook. The part I really relate to in that statement is the to see her handwriting, as you have probably gathered, her sister died and those letters from her became very special keepsakes, not just because her sisters wrote those letters, but they act as a connection to her even though she is no longer here. In 1976 my grandmother passed away. But, before she did, she purchased an album by Judy Collins Whales and Nightingales for one song specifically, “Amazing Grace”, as she loved Judy’s version. What makes this album so special to me is that on the front cover she had written some things in ink. Now, here it is, well over thirty years since her passing and I can see her handwriting. I can run my fingers over the ink and feel the pressure point from the pen and I know she wrote this. I know she held that album in her hands. It is, in a sense, a piece of her. That little bit of writing on that album says to the world “hey, I was here”. I guess that is why so many people are into collecting autographs (not just for the investment aspect). That signature is proof of that person’s existence. It is a way for us, a member of the lowly unwashed masses, to connect with someone we hold in high esteem for whatever reason.
I wonder if anyone, besides me, is longing for the days when we actually received hand written letters? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that technology allows me to write an email, hit the send button and within seconds it is waiting in my friend’s in box who is minutes or miles away. I think that is awesome! But, there is also something to be said for receiving a snail mail letter, too. I am at the age now when I think those kinds of letters are awesome! I guess a person can take heart, the greeting card industry seems to be alive and well, people still seem to enjoy sending cards and maybe enclosed is a few words written on the inside. I suppose that is better than nothing, eh? I am hoping, though, that more people begin to miss writing letters with pen on paper and will take up that old “art” and keep it alive and well. Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways and maybe letter writing will make a comeback. I sure hope so.
© 2015 Glory Miller