When we were 13, my best friend moved away to Frankfurt. We didn’t have emails back then so we used to write letters to each other. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The excitement I felt upon finding a set of writing paper in a naive shade of terracotta pink, taking my favorite spot by the window at Café Lalo and telling her about my ultimate decision to live in New York when I grew up. I remember including a carte-postale of Lalo in the envelope, wishing I could also send her a generous piece of old-fashioned cheesecake I was devouring.
Years have gone by and that pink envelope still carries in it the thrill of falling in love with New York. The certainty of my decision to live there in the assertive smudge of the now dried black ink. Traces of my future – unknown to me then – captured, in the knowing smile of the Lalo lady.
When was the last time I received a hand-written letter or a note? I can’t remember. What vast experiences I’ve had since then! What emotions I’ve lived through! So much… shared with others. Yet if nostalgia strikes, I have to consult a device to connect with that memory again. Ever so abstract. Utterly intangible.
On her TedTalk, Lakshmi Pratury, CEO of Ink Conferences, talks about the inheritance that her father left behind…. His hand-written letters and notebooks. She draws our attention to the forgotten values that this deeply personal and intimate art form possesses, and urges us to preserve it.
Handwriting is a disappearing art. I’m all for email and thinking while typing. But why give up old habits for new? Why can’t we have letter writing and email exchange in our lives?
There are times when I want to trade all those years that I was too busy to sit with my dad and chat with him – and trade all those years for one hug. But too late – that’s when I take out his letters. And I read them. And the paper touched his hand is in mine. And I feel connected to him.
So maybe we all need to leave our children with a value legacy and not a financial one – a value for things with a personal touch, an autograph book, a soul-searching letter. So what do I plan to leave for my son? My own notebook.
We live in an era when everything is so fast, demanding and above all, consuming. We don’t get a chance to reflect on anything that is actually worthy. It breeds impatience and rationalizes the standard excuse of not having enough time, all which is just a facade for our fear of slowing down. Because only then, we can truly connect with our selves and others in a meaningful and long-lasting way. We are so disconnected that even though we yearn for it, we are strangely terrified of it.
Slowing down and reflecting what to write in a letter. Signing it with ink. Licking the stamp. Sending it out. Waiting and longing for a response…. Receiving it and holding it in our hands. Hearing the sound of paper crinkle as we turn it around. There is a sensual roundness to that experience. A romance to it that cannot be replicated by checking the inbox on the flat screen of our phones.
You know, I imagine myself getting old. Having a garden or a porch somewhere tropical and a bit seclusive. A memory gets a hold of me. I pour myself a glass of wine and put on a record. Instead of waltzing towards a computer, I take out a box of letters or a notebook. I read the emotions and the moments preserved in them… and it warms my heart.