I left the building grinning and giggling and George did his usual eye-roll.
“I can’t wait to write someone a letter!” I said, hugging my purchase close and wondering who to contact first.
I didn’t expect to be that excited. I didn’t think, when I walked into the post office, that choosing first-class stamps for the first time in three years would be such a kick. Who knew, for instance, that all stamps are now pre-licked? Or that all first-class stamps are now “forever” stamps? No more dealing with the one-cent and two-cent catch-up stamps when the prices rise.
Those were mere incidentals, though. What excited me were the fun designs I had to choose from, designs I had no idea existed. I bought “go green” stamps with drawings–in green, of course–of people walking dogs, composting garden scraps, recycling cans and a myriad of other activities. I bought a sheet of Pixar stamps, with pictures of some of my favorite movies, like “Ratatouille,” “Toy Story” and “Up.” And I got the guide-dog stamps for those letters weighing two to three ounces.
It’s not that I’ve been stamp-deprived for the past three years. I’ve been using stamps that became available when George decided he wasn’t going to be a stamp collector. He had bought sheet after sheet of stamps celebrating celebrities, eras of history, nature, and once-current events, ranging from 32 cents to 37 cents, and they were now available to be used. All I need was a few ones, twos and tens, and I could decorate a letter in style.
It took me three years to use those up and I begrudged having to fork over the hefty 45 cents per stamp to replace them. However, the begrudging lasted only until the postal clerk hauled out all the new choices. My new dilemma became whether to gleefully buy one sheet of each, or have money for groceries. Since I like to eat, I limited myself to the three I found most irresistible.
Putting stamps on envelopes wouldn’t be so much fun if I didn’t like writing letters so much. Maybe that’s because I’m a writer by profession–but I know a lot of writers who haven’t sent real mail in years and can barely manage email. So, the explanation eludes me, but it’s not important anyway.
I love typing letters full of daily trivia, and illustrating them with photos I’ve taken. Most of my letters, single-spaced, are four to five pages long. I create my own return address labels, with “BeagleSong,” the name of our home, emblazoned in the first line. Or “Monica’s Pen.” Or “Words on Demand,” which is my freelance business name. I like making both letter and envelope pretty, interesting, even–if I dare say–little works of art.
“I want a letter from me to be an event,” I once told someone. Nowadays, they’re events simply because they exist at all, no matter what they look like. Who writes letters any more?
The more important question, though, is who likes receiving them? Everyone does. So, I love the idea that one of my letters brightens up an otherwise bills-and-junk-mail day for someone’s mailbox. Although I do use email for some people, I write real letters to my mom, a man on Death Row, my kids, George’s mom and sisters, and occasionally to friends. I send notes to people who need cheering up, and those who need encouragement or applause.
Do I get letters back? Seldom. Only from Mom, who has been as inveterate a letter-writer as I am, and now and then my daughter. I really regret that so many have lost the fun and the art of writing. Worse, in this age of texts and short-cuts, people have lost the art of good grammar and spelling, too.
That’s their problem. For me, a letter is a relaxing way to spend a half hour now and then; a way to share my life, to stay in touch, to keep the lines of communication open and, hopefully, to produce a smile on the receiver’s face.
Is it any wonder I was so excited by the additions to my “vocabulary” they have at the post office these days?