When I was young, for my gifts, I usually received stationery. I thought of this recently, that my grandmother, great-grandmother, my mother, my paternal grandmother as well as my father…writers. Value was placed by each of them, every scrap was used for notes, quotes and doodles of boats, pens were used until dry and pencils were sharpened to where there was wood but not lead.
My mother liked to write with a pen, her penmanship was lovely, difficult and well worth the trouble of imitating.
Her own mother preferred beautiful, patriotic paper, something that showed that she was, deep in her fundamentalist Baptist beating heart, she was still that tall ginger drink of water, walking along the docks as the ships left, waving, swearing to write, keeping her promise…to each special one…but typed, because office managers and doctors have atrocious handwriting for intentional reasons that you’ll never know or they’d have to kill you.
And her own mother wrote gossip…she and her friends gossiped through the United States Postal Service and trust me, Hedda Hopper had fuck all on my great-grandmother and her friends…and it was all done in semi-literate chicken scratch on expensive looking paper bought at Woolworth’s in Alhambra, during its heyday and hoarded for just these moments, when “Did you hear…” was their opening lines.
I thought of those boxes of stationery, wrapped in paper which would be reused for the next birthday in line after mine, I know I didn’t use them all, even with the amount of pen pals I had, and I thought about writing a letter , I tried it, I found myself tapping the table when I’d made a mistake, as if to hit the backspace key, muscle memory, lazy me, I should write a letter, but nobody shares physical addresses anymore.
And saving the trees, right?
I can get a response within days, not weeks. Minutes not months.
But there is still something charming about a letter arriving, smelling like the house or car in which it was written, the smear of letters, heavy strokes, “oh look it’s a letter, not a trick, not a scam, not a church or spam, it’s a letter” I love that moment.
Write a letter. Not to me of course, my mailman will punch me in the box, but write a letter, there is power behind it, write it to whomever you like, write it with intent to send it, knowing that you will not be sending it the way that you think. You want to write your deceased mother, your neglectful father, your absent god or your terrible enemy, it doesn’t matter if they’re living or dead, still in your life or not, choose someone you want a conversation with…at that moment….but for whatever reason cannot have that conversation.
It isn’t the person that’s important, it’s the process of writing that letter. Do you have a favorite pen, pencil, a beautiful stationery that you’ve been saving? Did you choose to write your letter on a brown paper bag, or old Christmas wrapping paper? Why? What did it feel like to write that letter, to scrawl those words across paper, now burn it baby, burn that letter, send it off in ashes and wind.