The thrill of the written word

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

by Allison T. Williams

Just like the rest of the world, I will tweet, text and email until my fingers fall off.

It’s easy. It’s instant. It’s painless.

And while Twitter may be changing its rules, for now, you have spit it out in 140 characters or less. Post a single Facebook message and the entire world will suddenly know you have a new job, a new baby or that you had too much wine last night.

I do love technology and can’t fathom how I ever did my job without it — even though I did, for many a year.

But I also love the increasingly rare thrill of getting an unexpected, handwritten letter in the mail. Sometimes, I can tell who it is from by the wide slope of the handwriting or the thickness of the stationery; other times, it’s a surprise. It’s something I can read, reread, tangibly hold in my hand and reread again six years later.

It tells me that somebody cares enough to take 20 minutes to write share their thoughts, feelings, opinions and news. (Never mind that I probably knew about it on Facebook a week earlier; it’s the thought that counts.)

When I was a kid, my grandmother decided I needed to learn to write letters and get to better know one of my grandfather’s sisters. So essentially, at 8 or 9 years old, I became pen pals with my Aunt Merle, an older woman in Danville.

Frankly, I don’t recall much about her or her letters over those three or four years of my childhood. But I vividly remember my excitement at finding a handwritten envelope with my name on it, the extra thrill when she would tuck a couple of dollars inside the letter, the sense of instant kinship I felt with this woman whom I only met a couple of times.

I’m sure that experience — along with others — led to my love of books, newspapers and the written word.

Truthfully, I can’t recall the last time I took time to handwrite a letter to anyone that wasn’t required or expected: thank you notes, Christmas cards and the like.

But I am publicly vowing to change.

I want my niece and nephew to know how to write a letter, to know the thrill of receiving — and writing — a note that requires a stamp, not the click of a mouse.

Even then, I will have to text them a reminder to write me back.

ALLISON T. WILLIAMS is a reporter and columnist for The Suffolk News-Herald. She can reached at 539-3497.