Most everywhere she went after she retired, my mother carried a slim brown leather attaché case. It would have been easy to mistake her for any other business professional going about her day. But no, her leather case was not filled with files, but with stationery, cards, stamps and pens — and at least one of her many address books. If she had down time — say, waiting at a doctor’s office or pausing between errands for a cup of tea — she would open up her case, choose one of her many slimline Cross pens, and start writing. Scribbling a brief note, or beginning a long letter. She would absolutely be the best ambassador for April’s National Card and Letter Writing Month. But, then again, so would I.
National Card and Letter Writing Month, sometimes known simply as Letter Writing month, is new to me. I stumbled across the details recently while — you won’t be surprised — searching for something else on the web. No doubt, the universe revealed it to me in that moment — a few hours earlier I’d been looking for just the right card to applaud a friend’s great success. I was searching in my carefully curated stash, so large it fills three Container Store storage boxes. They’re grouped by occasion — congratulations, birthdays and sympathy. But my favorite cards are the specialty ones — various creative versions of "Thinking of You," and laugh-out-loud funny ones. I delight in waiting for just the right moment to send a special card I’ve held for a long time. Actually, I’m one of the few people I know who still loves sending cards and writing letters.
Which is no doubt why it takes a big annual effort to promote letter writing and card sending. For four years now, participants in the Write On challenge have committed to writing or sending a note every day of April for 30 days straight. This follows another effort, February’s National Letter Writing Month — LetterMo for short — which encourages daily letter writing during the month. In a 2016 article for The Guardian newspaper, British novelist Jon McGregor — a once avid letter writer — pointed out, “you can always tell that a cultural form is dying when people start making a point of celebrating it.” But, if it takes these special celebrations to keep letter writing alive, I’m all for it. Anything to pump up the volume of first class mail, which has dropped by half in the last decade.
Letter writing groups are bringing together folks who didn’t grow up writing letters, but now find it much more satisfying than a fleeting text. It could be old-fashioned nostalgia or newfound longing for a tactile connection in a cyber world, but I believe letter writing is making a comeback.
My mother died before email almost completely replaced letter writing. Her little brown case is a keepsake I treasure. Unlike her, my correspondence habit is a bit erratic. What’s more, I often have to drive out of my way to find a mailbox to drop off my letters and cards. Still, I’ll continue to do my part to keep the tradition going. I love sending out my small missives. And, I can happily say the extra effort doesn’t go unnoticed. I can always count on appreciative notes back — by email or text.