I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years. So often, in fact, that I have boxes that I haven’t opened in years. In one of my last moves I came across a box that was labeled “MBP/Personal,” which could quite literally have contained anything private, intimate, or sentimental.
I shouldn’t have bothered to open it. After all, if I didn’t know what the box contained it was likely that I didn’t need the contents anytime soon. But I did open it, and out poured years’ worth of letters. Yes, letters. Before email, cell phones, Facebook, and facetime I actually corresponded regularly by mail with friends who lived everywhere–from all over the US to Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia, and South America.
The other now-extinct oddity I found, were notes. Notes left on my door when someone dropped by my apartment and I wasn’t home; there was no cell phone on which to call me. They were the texts of my college days. (Either that or someone would call and leave a message on your answering machine and then you would have to call in and listen to your messages…) Here’s a particularly entertaining one:
Or how about this impromptu bit of poetry:
What I probably should have done was read a few letters, get a little nostalgic, then put them all back, re-tape the box and move on to more pressing things on my to-do list. What I did instead was spend hours sitting on the floor, poring over my correspondence. There were postcards from all over the world; cards for every and no occasion; letters from friends with whom I’m still in touch; letters from old school friends I had lost contact with (until Facebook for some); and letters from old beaus–some even tied with ribbon.
There are no less than thirty cards plus letters from one of my best friends and, believe it or not, some friends and I used to exchange…faxes. Fax. Machine. Well, here’s a fun fax–and it printed out on that thermo…whatever paper that feels really weird and from which all the printing fades away eventually. If you’re curious as to why my nice Jewish friend was affecting an unusual dialect, I think it had something to do with a movie that we had be watching and re-watching at the time.
Oh, and in case you’re curious as to the article my friend sent me, here it is. Just don’t ask me to explain it–I couldn’t possibly–but “Robbi Jeffy” (not his real name, but I remember is a joke related to the dialect) always did have a good sense of humor.
I know that it sounds old-fashioned, but I miss corresponding by mail. Personally, I still try to write notes and letters whenever the opportunity presents itself–and sometimes for no reason at all–but usually the reply comes in the form of a phone call or an email. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how many different ways and how quickly we can get in touch with one another, but sometimes I wish our correspondence was slower and more thoughtful. There is also something about not needing a wifi signal to sit down and read the thoughts that someone wanted to share with you.
What might be just as interesting though, is sitting down to read the thoughts that someone wanted to share with someone else. While there are several books out there that are collections of correspondence, here are two titles with which I’ve recently been engrossed.
The first book is Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. This collection of letters to and/or from the notable, famous, and celebrated caught my attention from the first entry.
In this first letter, Queen Elizabeth II writes to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In her missile the Queen writes to the President because she realizes that she “had never sent you the recipe for the drop scones which I promised you at Balmoral.” Priceless.
Her Highness writes two double-sided sheets to Eisenhower noting that when it comes to the scone recipe “I generally put in less flour and milk, but use the other ingredients as stated.”
I don’t know about you, but I love imagining her in the palace kitchen, her apron dusty with flour.
Signing off as “Elizabeth R” (R as in Regina)…
she includes the following recipe:
I’ve already made a copy for myself, which I plan on trying when the occasion presents–after all, I found my recipe for Yorkshire Pudding in another book of letters, 84, Charing Cross Road. (It’s delicious, in case you were wondering.)
But in addition to this very friendly and politics-free letter from Elizabeth R, Letters of Note shares Elvis Presley’s five-page in-flight letter to President Richard Nixon. He offers his services as a “Federal Agent at Large” on page two:
Then there’s the 1956 letter twelve-year-old Jim Berger wrote to noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright commissioning plans for a house for his labrador, Eddie. His father promised to build it if Wright would design it. Mr. Berger completed construction in 1963:
Well done, Jim!
Marlon Brando was no stranger to fan mail, I’m sure, but how about these letters from authors Jack Kerouac and Mario Puzo. Both were efforts to woo the actor to bring their books to life on the silver screen.
|“I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD
and make a movie of it.”
|“I wrote a book called THE GODFATHER which has
had some success…”
There are dozens of letters penned by the likes of Eudora Welty, Clementine Churchill, Mick Jagger, Mark Twain, and Fidel Castro. But even if the writer or recipient isn’t famous, it’s still curious to get a glimpse into the minds and relationships of others.
This particular note made me smile: