Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Person of Letters

I’m sure that the U.S. Postal Service did not have me in mind when they decided to sponsor National Card and Letter Writing Month in April, but, in fact, both the entity and the subject have played an important part in my life. Oh, the power of a piece of paper, envelope, and stamp! At one time, the letter was the mainstay of communication. Mail carriers delivered twice daily to homes in Fort Plain. People met through newspapers that had a section dedicated to that subject. Men on the frontier corresponded with women in the hopes of wooing them west. We all remember the movie Sarah, Plain and Tall, based on the Newbery Award winning book by Patricia MacLachlan that tells the story of a mail- order bride who comes to enrich the lives of a frontier family. Other good books based on letters include The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections by Tom Brokaw that includes the correspondence and reminiscences of ordinary citizens and gives us an intense and personal look at a momentous period in our history, and From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger, telling the story of the love that exists between a woman and her jailed lover, a political prisoner.
My sister and I have always corresponded. At Christmas, we each sent the other a Knowles collector’s plate, Norman Rockwell’s Reminiscing in the Quiet, depicting an elderly woman sitting in the attic with old letters on her lap, reflecting on the part they played in her life. Today our electronic correspondence is handy, and yet it reminds me of jet contrails, words in passing, defined only for a moment before fading into nothingness. In the spirit of the written greeting, the Fort Plain Free Library will host a card making workshop with instructor Loralee Whitlock on Thursday evening, April 22, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. While this workshop is free and open to the public, space is limited.
So how did the U.S. Postal Service affect my life? My husband was a letter carrier. Though not visibly given to sentiment, he was keenly aware of his part in delivering an anticipated letter to an anxious parent, a birthday card to an elderly grandparent. I like to think it was prompted by his personal experience…awaiting one of the two thousand letters we exchanged over the three years that we dated a half-century ago!
Submitted by Sally-Jean Taylor