Monday, February 4, 2013

The Magic of Mail

The folks at Punchbowl (who supply the info for my Let's Party! blog widget) tell us that today is 'Thank a Mailman Day,' and you can read all about it by opening this link or scrolling down the righthand side of this blogpage.

Learning about 'Thank a Mailman Day' today made my heart do a little wiggle. Because I seriously love mail. Love it! Even the typewritten word gives me palpitations; it suggests handwritten secrets and sparkles and surprises. :)

Ever since I was little, mail has mesmerized me. I realized its awesome potential even before I could write my own name....

Look at those mail-obsessed eyes!
As a preschooler, I confounded my parents by lying in wait for our letter carrier, then 'doing them a favor' by opening the bills he left in our mailbox. I wreaked havoc by fashioning birthday invitations for my dog, using just enough imagination and new-found spelling and lettering skills to make them understandable before handing them out to my first grade classmates (whose parents phoned my absolutely clueless ones on the Day Of, asking for directions). I created tiny construction-paper mailboxes for my grade school desks and checked them hourly for deliveries. I annoyed my teachers by obsessively passing notes.... (And don't even get me started on the annual Creation-of-the-Valentine's-Day-Box. Imagining mine -- cloaked childishly in butcher's wrap and decorated with loopy doilies and construction-paper hearts -- filling up with envelopes was enough to keep me awake at night!)
Spending a week at camp or long summer days at the lake with my grandparents kept me sending daily missives home to my folks. In my absence I imagined them pining for me and celebrating when my grubby little envelopes arrived in their mailbox. Waiting for their replies was torture....

I sent away for stuff -- free cancelled stamps, mail-order catalogues, names of foreign penpals that I annoyed with constant aerograms. I couldn't help myself. I wrote voraciously.

Then in later grades I began circulating a spiral notebook with a friend in a Round Robin kind of way, writing a poem or an imaginative entry and passing it along, immediately jonesing for its return and then greedily digging in when the poor mangled thing was back in my hands once more. Often my friend had just enough time to only pen a thought or two. But when I'd open the book and see a whole page there it was enough to transport me!

(Fountain pens. Yum....)
This has continued long into my adulthood. I wrote letters to my Girlz from their 'secret penpals.' I sent anonymous letters to people on my walking route, complimenting them on their storybook gardens or the curb appeal of their houses. I tucked little letters from the fairies between the pages of library books. For a while I was typing up detailed thoughts and musings and sending them to loved ones, imagining them looking forward to my thick letters like they would the delivery of the daily newspaper. Then, having exhausted anything interesting of my own to share, I even penned letters from characters in my imagination and mailed them to young acquaintances (who I'm sure rolled their eyes, chalking it up to me just being Me -- "There goes Delayne again, writing to me like I'm a child who still believes in fairies.....").

Then, after weeks of writing and posting nonstop to what I'd hoped were eager recipients, I began to doubt myself. I wondered if I was alienating those loved ones with my words! I'd then cut back, go Cold Turkey.... But it wasn't long before I was at it again. The habit of writing and sharing and imagining my words being received was just too strong in me.

The eventual appearance of email bugged me at first. It was a sad way to receive news, I thought; where was the scent of paper, the loopy scroll of ink, the recognition of familiar handwriting? But I'd soon embraced it and was sending wordy, thought-filled messages to those same unfortunate recipients and checking my In-Box frequently for longed-for replies.

If I get snailmail at all these days, I'm pleasantly surprised. Things have changed so much that I often fail to hear anything being dropped in my postbox, and James has had to check it himself when he gets home at night because the thought to do so myself hasn't even occurred to me.... The day-after-month-after-year effort of fetching the post only to find junk flyers (and bills) has taken its toll, I guess. I no longer haunt the mailbox.

This butterfly house is our fairy mailbox.
But my inner child keeps remembering those magical days of handwritten surprises, and I keep doing what I can to return to them.

Fortunately for me my growing Grandbugs are at (or rapidly approaching) the age where my addiction to letterwriting is getting a much-needed shot in the arm. And these days I look on gleefully when my eldest Grandbug visits Tumbledown and doesn't even take her jacket off before checking her makeshift mailbox for a fairypost. We read it together and then she's immediately hunting for notepads and scratchpaper so she can pen them something in return....

It warms my heart and gives me hope even as I'm learning that handwriting (and in some cases spelling) is being dropped from school curriculums. My teenaged nieces and nephew write in text shorthand and rely on Spellcheck to make themselves understandable. And I wonder if they (or anyone their age) knows the incredible pleasure it is to write to someone and have them write back.

I love writing on my own cards.
Every time I design a notecard or a sheet of stationery, I think of all of this. Every paragraph of this. Every time I overhear a customer say, "What lovely cards; it's too bad I don't write anymore," I want to secretly send them a letter so amazing that they'll know what it's like to be touched by magic and will want to send something out into the world in return, in the anticipation that it will circle back and touch them again. I want to somehow re-animate the craft of letterwriting and stand it on its head! I want to say THIS:
Dear You,

Please take a moment today and write a letter! It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't even have to make sense! Do something fun -- write a poem, sketch a silly illustration, share a recipe or a memory, or simply let someone know you're thinking about them.

I guarantee that by doing this you will start a chain reaction. Receiving your letter will dip someone's whole day in gold and they'll want to share the smile that you gave them. What you write today will change the world.

You'll see!

There. And so I have. :)


  1. I must've been sending out some vibes today! After sharing this post I made myself check the mailbox and -- surprise! -- I discovered a handwritten thank-you card from my sort-of-sister-in-law and her husband, a lovely wedding invitation from the daughter of a close friend, and a postcard from my newest little Grandbug. A mailbox full of magic, most definitely! :)

  2. I always loved getting your hand-written letters. I remember when we sent notes back and forth using a typewriter, and how we lamented the use of such an impersonal machine, though it was the only way I could write and keep up with my thoughts.

    I'm sure I saved all those old letters, too.

    Have I told you lately how much I treasure you? You inspire me in so many ways!


  3. Heavens, your blog has just described ME! I still have two friends who correspond solely by handwritten letters and waiting for those to appear out of the stacks of catalogs and junk mail is excruciating. Sadly, most of my replies are CG because, like Laurel, it's the only way I can write and keep up with my thoughts.

    And, like Laurel, I cherish your friendship and the inspiration you give me. Never stop being YOU! dc