When we were moving houses, there was a box of old papers and documents that was lying untouched for quite a while. Everyone who has moved houses or carried out the once-a-season cleaning knows about avoiding sitting down and sorting through old documents to figure out if they are to be binned.
I had then decided to do that task last, right before I went to bed, so as to end the day on a constructive note. Little did I know that I will not be sleeping anytime soon after I saw what awaited me in that box.
Old, fragile, fading with age, letters.
Rife with the smell of old and aged paper.
I remember the sigh of resignation I had given then, my sleepy self fighting a losing war with my nostalgic self. I ended up making myself some tea and getting comfy on the couch, as I read words that had traveled across faraway lands and sea to convey emotions, thoughts long forgotten by now.
There was one my grandfather had written to my father when he was travelling around the nation (complete with the traditions of the land, the food, description of the people), one my mother had written to my father when he was outside the country (the poetry of the words made me feel all warm and fuzzy), and somehow, there were some my sister had written to her then lover (this one was particularly entertaining).
And then, nestled deeper still, were letters written in a child’s handwriting. This was the first letter the then 7-year old me wrote to my mother from school.
Coming across the last one was like meeting an old self, a self I had left behind so far away that I didn’t remember it’s existence. But someone else did – my mother. In the form of this letter, she had forever preserved that seven year old version of her son.
Here, gathering dust from years gone by, were pieces of people loved from different times. Here lived my granddad, even when he passed away, his words telling me stories I’d never have heard had it not been for this letter.
So what became of writing letters then?
What happened to sitting down, taking a pen, slowly sliding it across a paper, the ink giving life to so many thoughts, carefully collected? Somehow writing a letter makes you say things you probably wouldn’t have said. Writing a letter today, the simple act becomes a gesture, owing to the sheer effort that the task requires.
I mean, imagine walking into office and seeing that someone left a nice note at your desk. Smiling? Now imagine someone sending you a letter: a hand written epistle of anything from a “thank you” in a little more words, to, “hey, want to get a coffee?”, or, “I have been meaning to tell you years have passed by, but you are still on my mind, and I think you will be there a little over forever”.
In the age of texts, messages, emails, and constant other platforms where we stay in touch and are always updated, are we actually connected?
Even when we have all these platforms where we can type to our hearts content, how is it that we never end up writing more than a few lines, sometimes words? Because if I speak for myself, I will love some of that excitement of writing a letter, then the happiness of posting one, and then the delicious anticipation of expecting one. I love the fact that I can reach my friends and family in a heartbeat with all the text applications.
But the charm of writing a letter is unmatched and will always be so.
And so, when I was done reading them all, I put back all the letters in the box and decided to write one myself. To the one who had the patience to curate all these so lovingly.
“Dear Ma, it is the last day in this house. You are asleep in the other room, and I have been enjoying a treasure trove of words that you have collected all these years with so much care and love. I know this will come to you when I am at work and you are settling in the house. But I am writing this to say that you have managed to send your little boy down, not only his own, but so many other people’s memory lanes. Thank you.”
All images from Unsplash, unless mentioned otherwise.