More Than A Feeling

Last month I was listening to some NPR talk show and the guests were
fighting over the loss of cursive writing in schools. One of the guests was
defending not teaching it anymore and was arguing that emails and text messages
are just as timeless as the letters and cards of the past. After going through
yet another attic box I must respectfully disagree. The box that I looked at
today contains letters written, mostly from men, boys, guys going back more
than 20 years ago. Not only do I have their words, I have a sense of them, a
piece of them through their handwriting. I can pick one up and know that it was
Vinny or Kevin or Joel. It adds meaning, texture and depth to the words written
on the page. These written words are like that intense memory you get sometimes
from a smell. You smell that smell and it transports you back to that time. It is
real and you can feel it. That is how these notes, letters and cards make me
feel. And they do make me feel. Not the kind of feelings like regret or desire
for the past, just those feelings that those individuals made me feel back
then. Like closing my eyes and there I am in the rented house in Hampton Bays
during my senior year in college.

I believe that my roommates and I decided to have a party as a last
hurrah. I vaguely recall the keg in the bathtub in my bathroom and people doing
funnels. I had the smallest bedroom but I got the attached bathroom. I think it
was because the wallpaper was red, white and blue vertical stripes ala Austin
Powers, too much for my roomies but just right for me. I have a series of
letters from an underclassman boy that I met right at the end of my senior
year. According to a letter that he sent me when he returned home (his parents
actually picked him up to take him back home at my rented house and we kissed
in front of them) “getting to know you this semester (however briefly) has been
the high point of my academic career.” Seriously, when was the last time anyone
paid you a compliment on that level as ridiculous as it is? It is unheard of.

The list of writings I saved from various men is extensive. There are
letters from Erik, the young floppy haired guy in our circle of friends whose
youth I couldn’t get over but was flattered by his attention nonetheless. Kevin
O. and Kevin R.’s letters. I dated both off and on at different times. Vinny
who drove me to college with my mother and they cried together on the drive
back. Eric from the lab I worked at whose mailings to me while I was in Thailand
made me fall madly in love with him. Tormented notes from Joe’s black days in
college. The big “J” who is credited with my move to Hawaii. Letters of
separation, desire, love, loss and longing.

I would propose that the electronic era, while making us able to
communicate faster than ever, also creates wider gaps through short impersonal notes,
lack of emotion and an inability to gain a sense of a person through their
handwriting. It is all lost. Keanu and I have a million modern tools at our
disposal to keep in touch and we use them. But when I look at these letters and
writings I know that we are failing each other. We are failing to connect in a
real way as we flail about in our daily lives which are oceans apart. I think
that tonight I will do something that I haven’t done in a very long time. I
will put my words to paper. Paper that will come into contact with my skin as I
hold a pen and generate some rusty cursive writing which hasn’t seen the light
of day in ages. I will write a letter to Keanu which is deep and intense and
full of feeling. I will bless it and send it out across the ocean. I will wait in
anticipation for a response and hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful correspondence. A correspondence that will be found in an attic someday.

About nematomorph

Living like the rich and famous, splitting time between Hawaii and New York.
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2 Responses to More Than A Feeling

  1. Jonathan says:

    Love this entry! And I agree with you. There’s still something about getting a hand written note or letter that is just different and any of the electronic ones that we get so much of these days.

  2. mauka-makai says:

    And do hand writing with your kids too. This generation is growing up electronic, without even the option of handwritten notes. My grandparents, 91 and 92 (son’s great grandparents) read and re-read cards sent to them by loved ones, to pass the time and read something of interest. Every time my grandfather sees my son, he gives him a great big hug and says, “I just love all your cards and letters! I really appreciate them so much”

    I have had N do handwritten thank you notes for holidays and birthdays since he could grab onto a pencil and scribble; postcards to grands and great grands when we travel, and now that he can actually write full words and sentences, it also becomes handwriting practice for him.

    I’m so glad that he got to experience how much his labors are appreciated by the recipients. Like connecting the dots, cause and effect. Not so easy with loved ones living so far away.

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