Flying home from Orlando last week, CT and I sat next to an older woman. I'm guessing this woman was probably in her mid-70's, and looked like she would have been a school teacher in her younger years. I don't know why I thought that - she just looked like a school teacher; silver-gray hair pulled up, no make-up, sensible shoes, a cardigan sweater, and glasses. She was traveling by herself, and mentioned to CT that she had recently moved to Orlando, and was heading back to the Chicago area for a visit.
After take-off, our seat-mate took out a large envelop that contained a stack of what appeared to be a variety of letters that she received (envelopes and all). Probably 20 or more in total. She carefully took out one letter at a time, and re-read the note that was sent to her. Then, she proceeded to take out a stack of copies that appears to be her pre-typed reply letters. I was impressed to see that she even printed her typed letters back-to-back, so as to save paper. Quite the environmentally friendly thing to do. I tried not to read her letters (for fear of getting caught "cheating" - like when you were in school) and I did not want to be reprimanded by our seat-mate/school teacher.
So, as I quickly glanced over, I saw that she began each letter with, "Dear ________ :", and then she filled in the blank with the recipient's name. What was even more interesting was that she then continued to handwrite the remaining part of the letter, and not just one-line endings. She proceeded to write paragraphs and paragraphs for each letter. Then she carefully and meticulously folded the letters, addressed and stuffed the envelop, and very carefully sealed the envelop with a quick lick. Her movements were very gentle yet with purpose -- very efficient.
I thought how peculiar this was -- this elderly school teacher with half typed and half handwritten letters. (I know some elderly folks who do not even own a computer, and those that do own one, well, let's just say that powering up the computer can be a challenge. I am sure, too, that there are some elderly folks who can run circles around me and my computer skills.) Anyway, I wondered why she choose to send her replies in a combination format, and then via Snail Mail. And then I got to thinking about the handwriting on those letters.
A handwritten letter is truly a thing of the past. I honestly don't remember the last time I wrote or received a handwritten letter (birthday cards sent in the mail don't count!) Today, messages I receive are in email, instant message, or text format, and I easily discard them with a quick click of the "delete" key. Yet when I think about notes or recipes in my grandmother's handwriting, it just makes me smile. And I can still visualize my dad's handwriting -- his signature, notes that he might leave on the counter top for my mom or us kids, or even notes of phone numbers that he would write on the wall in the laundry room (right next to the phone). How I wish I would have kept more things with their handwriting, now that they are both gone.
I wonder how our seat-mate/school teacher felt about the handwritten letters. And I wonder if the recipients of her letters would keep them and treasure them long after she is gone. Maybe she would just shrug and say that her combination typed/written letters were strictly for convenience sake. Or maybe our seat-mate/school teacher was somewhere in the middle - holding on the something of the past, recognizing the importance of handwritten notes, yet incorporating today's ways and conveniences. In this case, I think holding on to the past is a good thing.