Eliza J. Antworth Greenfield's letter to Charlotte Beckim

Snail Mail: Something To Be Hipster About


Everyone loves getting post. I don’t mean bills and flyers and coupons (okay, yes to coupons). Getting parcels and cards and even letters – is there a better feeling? When was the last time you got something in the post – or sent something?

You’ve Got Mail

Remember this movie? It came out in 1998 – in the days when video tapes were the norm, DVDs and email were still relatively new and Netflix was still a long way away.

Last week I had to look up some dates for a form I was filling out. After hunting through my files I went into my old email account to see if that would be any help.

In my search I cam across emails from two friends from high school. I can’t remember the last time I emailed either one of them.

A few days ago I asked one of them if he ever emails anyone – other than for work.

“Email?” he asked. “After emailing people all day at work, I don’t even look at my laptop when I get home. I use WhatsApp to stay in touch with people.”

A Dying Art

In just last week I’ve had family and friends tell me about mail they’ve come across.

  1. My mother found a letter written by a cousin in my nani’s Bible. That’s where she kept the things precious to her. My mum offered to mail the letter to my cousin.
  2. A friend of mine found a card I sent him in 2012 while he was going through his closet.
  3. Another friend finally picked up his mail and him and his wife chuckled over the birthday card I’d sent and decided that it’s high time they come for a visit.
Sir John Fenwick’s letter to his wife, Mary, written shortly before he was executed for treason on 26 January , 1697.

Texts, WhatsApp messages and voiceclips, Skype calls, and Facebook messages are all very well, but there’s nothing quite like being able to go through a box of old cards and letters – or receiving a card from someone you haven’t heard from in 6 months – or even someone you just sent a Snapchat to.

In an article in the New York Times, Maria Konnikova writes about how writing in cursive helps children learn and even cope with dyslexia. For children and adults writing helps focus the mind.

Whether one writes in cursive or not, it’s nice to be able to feel the paper another person held and took time to write on. Isn’t it?

Snail-Mail Days: Remember them?

I remember getting letters from my father. I’d get crisp sheets of paper so fine they were almost translucent. All were covered by his flowing cursive script.  I tried for quite some time to imitate his handwriting and have never succeeded.

I used to get letters from him almost every week. Being rather young, and unable to sit still at a desk for very long when not at school, I didn’t reply to his letters with the effort his letters deserved. Two sides were about as much as I could manage in a sitting.

going postalStationary Issues

I bought Christmas cards two weeks ago. I’ve yet to send any off though. I thought it might be nice to include a little letter in each. So off I went in search for letter paper.

I used to have lovely pink letter paper as a kid and I wanted something similar. I went to stationary stores and a few Dollar Stores and didn’t see a scrap of letter paper. I did come across an aisle – half of which was dedicated to different kinds of envelopes. I’d thought I’d finally hit the jackpot. I hadn’t.

I still don’t know why there’s so much space dedicated to envelopes – what on earth do people put in them if not letters?

A letter is more than a message.

In the words of Moist Von Lipwig, Postmaster General of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office:

“But can you write S.W.A.L.K.* on a clacks**? Can you seal it with a loving kiss? Can you cry your tears onto a clacks, can you smell it, can you enclose a pressed flower? A letter is more than just a message.”





*Sealed With A Loving Kiss

**Email equivalent



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