It saddens me when I hear that letter writing is becoming a lost art. Today’s kids, born with phones sticking out of their ears, can’t possibly understand the joy of getting a letter – especially a love letter.
Anticipation was half the game. A girl in my day could have all kinds of loving feelings bursting from her heart, but proper etiquette dictated she couldn’t write to her boyfriend except in answer to his letter. Several days of going to the mailbox and coming back empty-handed was enough to drive a girl wild – Is he ever going to write? Has he forgotten me? Has he found someone new?
The letter would finally arrive, and she’d rip it open, race through it, read it again … then read it again … then read it again more slowly (savor each word, read between the lines, look for hidden messages). Could a girl ever get that kind of mileage out of a phone conversation?
And even after all that, the life of a love letter was far from over. The next step was to put the letter in a purse or notebook, mostly hidden, but visible enough for friends to see. This was very important, because it boosted a girl’s rating among her peers. Everyone knew she was loved – she had a letter to prove it.
Friends would speculate about the contents of that letter, but none ever found out – no girl in her right mind would let anyone read her love letters. If the letter was juicy, it was too personal and special to share. And if the sender talked about his science project, or how he tripped over a garden hose and broke his toe, a girl wasn’t about to let anyone know. Oh, the mystery of it all!
Guys in love these days might send balloon bouquets, propose on billboards or talk to their girls for hours on the phone, but I don’t think anything can compare to a good old-fashioned letter. Letters don’t depreciate, and they keep forever (as long as you don’t have mice in your attic) – and there’s no way a long-ago telephone conversation could possibly entertain grandkids on a rainy day as well as long-ago love letters can!
The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Rita Larkin Kayser is a reader from Marquant, Mo.