E-mail not as good as old-fashioned letter

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

Through the years we have visited about the joy of writing and receiving letters. Last week, had I not known better, I’d have thought friends had ganged up on me when I received five wonderful letters in one day.

Ordinarily, I receive two or three a week and am delighted. Well, I had already received them when the five arrived to send me into a state of shock.

Of course, I am now very far behind in answering because I am still enjoying rereading and thinking how very fortunate I am to have friends who continue to place words on paper and who continue to want to remain in touch. We still know the thrill of receiving real news written on real paper as well as the pleasure of writing our own thoughts to share with others.

Although e-mail may be more instantaneous, it just doesn’t seem nearly as personal as snail mail, especially when one notes the numerous names to whom the message may have been sent. The latter just lacks the personal touch of two friends communicating with each other in well thought-out ideas and interesting items from each other’s life. The latter seems almost as generic as do the Christmas letters we use in order to save time.

I even considered a generic letter for a moment after receiving more letters than usual at one time and quickly erased that idea because I couldn’t begin to answer specific questions asked in each letter in a general fashion and certainly would not be visiting with the individual but with the group — several of whom who do not know each other.
Such a letter would be most impersonal and wreck the idea of writing to each person in the fashion in which they took time to write to me.

This old-fashioned way of communicating became a major habit when I was in college and wrote to my parents rather frequently because we surely didn’t make long distance phone calls unless emergencies arose. Mother wrote to me several times a week, and I wrote at least one long letter per week so we could keep apprised of the happenings at both ends of the mail route.

Her letters alleviated the major fits of homesickness for a few minutes as I read and reread each one. My letters let my parents know I had probably failed the last exam or was sure I would fail the next. In later years, my mother told me she became excited during my freshman year because I kept her worried that I would probably fail all subjects and would move back home without an education or any way of making a living.
She finally learned that I tended to include my fears more than reality and could relax until the next letter arrived.

After I moved south, we began our correspondence again even though I called home every Sunday just to hear my parents’ voices and to check on the latest news. I could then write about the latest happenings that might result in my being fired, and she could report on the real happenings around town. As time went by, friends and I began to write each other on a regular basis, and a major habit was formed.

I now wonder just how many parents write to their children these days, and how many children, no matter what the age, write their parents. Most friends I see on a regular basis say that they write very few letters but are always pleased to receive them. They say they talk to their offspring or e-mail them but don’t want to take the time to write letters, either by hand or on the computer.

Who knows? Maybe those children aren’t interested in receiving letters because the have not learned the joy of opening the envelope and pulling forth a real letter. They may never know what they have missed.

In the meantime, I’ll continue writing at least one letter a day and will look forward to wandering to the mailbox to retrieve a letter from a friend. Old habits can be fun!