Hey, Mr. Postman
I seem to be writing in circles, coming back again and again to both post offices and letters. The recent news that the Postal Service is going to cut back hours and rural post offices rather than closing them is welcome news indeed for anyone familiar with the life of a village. Heavens, they may cut service to all of the post offices before all is said and done. We’ve come to rely on technology rather than the handwritten word.
Recently the importance of writing and receiving letters was brought home when I had the privilege of attending a reading at the historic Espy house, now the home of Sydney and Nyel Stevens. Sydney is a writer and a descendent of the Espy family which helped found the village of Oysterville, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula. Among her writing credits is a wonderful book titled Dear Medora and which I’ve blogged about before. Dear Medora is a collection of letters written back and forth between Sydney’s grandmother and Aunt Medora. The collection, along with some wonderful pictures, is a glimpse into Oysterville’s past that might have been lost were it not for the Espy family’s predilection for keeping correspondence. Sydney read from Dear Medora, published in 2007, on Sunday evening, but that was just the warm up. She also read from her biographical manuscript on her uncle, writer Willard Espy. Again she has drawn on family pictures and letters. The sneak peek she gave is has me praying that the manuscript will find a publisher because I want to read the rest of the story.
Sydney’s readings also made me ruminate on my own boxes and boxes of letters. I come from a long line of packrats and consider myself in recovery, but Sydney has given me license to hang onto my letters. I have letters that were written to my grandfather by a girl he didn’t marry. I have letters written to me by my father when he was on Eniwetok helping test the atomic bomb and later from his travels around the world for Boeing. I have letters from my grandmother who was the lynch pin of our family until her death. She was the source of news of aunts, uncles and cousins. While our family is not as prominent as the Espys, I’d like to think that if not my children, my grandchildren will be grateful for my accumulating ways.
Which brings us back to the Postal Department’s budget woes. The reason the Postal Service is in trouble is that we don’t write letters any more. Email and texting are easy and sometimes faster than trying to call someone. Remember when you waited until evening before having the operator place that long distance call so you’d get the cheaper rate? Now my daughter-in-law is able to talk to her mother in Brazil every day. So why write letters?
I think that future generations are going to lose out on a lot of information about our lives unless they are able to hack into our email accounts when we are gone. I’m not sure that has the cache of finding a ribbon tied bundle of letters that have been handled by a forbearer. Maybe my great-grandchildren won’t have any letters written by their parents or grandparents, but my grandchildren will. I will keep doing my part for history by saving my letters. Besides, I think them much more a treasure than my husband’s 7,000 LPs.