I have been archiving old letters. At first, I thought I would finish in an hour or so. They have been spread around on the floor for a week, and I am nowhere near finished. Worse than that, I don’t dare to go to the basement to do laundry because I fear I may have more letters there.
For years, I carried these letters from one city/country to the next. First they were all in their envelops. Then I removed the envelops and saved the letters. Then I had to put them in bags and boxes and store them while I waited for the right time to sort them and archive them properly.
The right time, which doesn’t seem that right at all, is now. I have been living in the past for over a week. It is a remarkable experience to go through what friends, relatives, neighbours, and sometimes mere acquaintances, people whom I met on flights for example, wrote over the years.
I recognize handwriting of all friends and relatives. After so many years, I need to look at one single line to know who wrote the whole letter. Imagine, not seeing someone for 15 years and yet knowing very well how their handwriting looked like. I wonder whether I would recognize these people if I saw them on the street some day. I am not sure. Yet I recognize how some people pressed the pen heavily to make their mark while others brushed it casually across the pages.
There is so much emotion emanating from these letters: those close to me shared their innermost feelings, their fears, their wishes, their longings, their worries. People were so candid yet so affectionate. Every letter is unique; I couldn’t find two letters that I found similar in content, views, or style. And I tried to remember when I received such a personal gift last. I couldn’t. The last letter (I have not finished archiving) must have come years ago.
I receive emails from most of the same people. Their affections come in the form of warnings about cellular phones, car thefts, and benefits and perils of just about any vegetable. Sometimes, I receive the exact same email from five different people. I try to avoid imagining a day when everyone says the exact same thing.
I am no fan of the past; I watch films and read books about older times where there was no electricity, no running water, no heat, … Life was miserable. I wouldn’t trade one hour of my life with one year of those times. But do we have to throw everything away? Couldn’t we choose some things worth keeping? A hand-written letter for example?