As a people, we tend to hold on to things. Historical events are memorialized in our calendars and holidays are planned around them. Because social media has become a permanent fixture in our lives, the need to constantly update and inform has changed the way we communicate. But the urge to remember has grown stronger, too. We want people to like and post and comment on things we’ve said or done not days ago but YEARS ago. The amount of time we spend encouraging people to remember is staggering.
Ever since I was a child, one of my favorite things was going to Hallmark Gold Crown with my mom and grandmother. We would stand in the aisles and laugh or cry at the poignant, silly, appropriate sayings within the paper walls of pretty cards.
From the card itself to the envelope, I was completely in love with stationery. My grandmother and aunts, who grew up writing letters amongst themselves, always sent the most beautiful cards to me for birthdays and holidays. I began saving them in boxes and folders, making sure not to bend them or lose pretty bits attached by flimsy glue.
Because my mom was always so good about getting my brother and I to write detailed thank-you notes for every gift we ever received, (sometimes by bribing, but no judgements) the habit truly stuck. Not only did I fall in love with stationery and all its facets, I fell in love with writing.
I started off writing my grandmother thank-you cards for cards she would send me. The thought of thanking someone for a card was just silly enough for my tween brain to latch on and want to keep doing it.
Soon after, our correspondence grew to a card a week. Our conversations ranged in topics and as I grew, as did our subject matter. I found that I could tell my grandmother things in written form that I wasn’t comfortable talking about in real life with my family or friends. My grandmother slowly grew to be more than just my grandmother but my close friend.
When she died on July 4th, 2016, I was unprepared. Like most people who experience death, I went through a grieving process that, to be honest, I’m still going through. There are times I see a card that reminds me of her that I’d like to send her. I catch myself wanting to call her on the phone or almost referring to her as if she’s still alive in conversation with my mother. When I went to her funeral, I spent a lot of time in her room helping my mother and aunt go through her things and allocate their next place of being. Everyone we knew had a pile designated for them. I quickly noticed that my pile seemed slightly barren. I didn’t want to be greedy about anything, but I wanted something physical to have to remember my grandmother.
After spending a few days sifting through her room, I happened upon a box. It was filled with letters she and I had written to each other. She had saved every single one.
When I miss her most and can’t seem to find comfort in memory, I don’t hop on Instagram to look at photos. I crawl under my desk and pull out a box that has our letters. A catalogue of our relationship was preserved in these notes and it has become one of my most precious possessions.
Hearten your children, your family, your friends, your husbands, your wives, your colleagues, your neighbors to write letters to people. Someday they might become more than just words on paper. They might become valuable in ways they can’t describe.