Valentine's Day: The art of the letter
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 21:02
Until this December, the last time I was eager to open the mailbox was when I was awaiting acceptance letters from colleges. Everything that had been addressed to me in the interim—bills from loan providers, reminders to take my senior portrait and coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond—did not get me nearly as excited. This December, I had a reason to check the mailbox every single day with as much anticipation as I had in the spring of 2009.
I was awaiting letters from the fellow I met this summer who would be in Illinois for the next three months for Navy boot camp. I met Greg in June of 2012 at a flea market in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. My friend and I were attempting to sell artifacts of our childhood on this especially humid summer day. My friend and I were the only sellers below the age of 65 until Greg pulled up alongside the spot we carved out for ourselves in the pebbly lot. Greg stole my friend’s chair so he could sit beside me, and he basically never left. It’s a beautiful story, and anyone who knows me or has read my columns knows how much I love a good love story. I just never had my own to tell.
Greg and I began a whirlwind of a summer romance, which lasted until I said goodbye to the Jersey Shore and hello to my senior year on the Heights. Greg and I kept in touch, but there were some complicating factors that kept me from investing myself wholeheartedly in the relationship. The first day we met, Greg told me that he had recently enlisted in the Navy and that he would be going to boot camp in December. I pushed this information into the back of my mind, choosing to focus on the present, instead. Sooner rather than later, that became the present, and Greg was leaving for Illinois, where his only connection to people outside the base would be through handwritten letters.
Not knowing that Greg would be unable to send letters for the first few weeks, I checked the mailbox every day. Nothing. Though I was accustomed to being disappointed, I couldn’t help but be hopeful each time I started turning the dial to unlock our mailbox. At some points I even convinced myself that I could see the corner of a white envelope in the tiny window.
I checked the mailbox one last time before I left for Winter Break. Nope, just a jury duty notification for the roommate. About a week into vacation, my dad woke me up from my mid-afternoon nap hollering, “Brooke, you got a letter from Greg!” I jumped out of bed quicker than I would have if he had said there was pork fried rice on the kitchen table.
I received a total of four letters from Greg over the next month and a half. I have read each one more than once, and the beautiful thing is that I can read them hundreds of more times if I want. Greg never said anything elaborate in these letters, and they were all brief enough to fit on an 8 by 6 inch sheet of paper with room to spare. He did not use flowery language, nor did he quote from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Rather, in the simplest of words he told me that he missed me and that he was making friends, and he reminded me that I have one semester left at BC so I better enjoy it. He signed each letter, “Like, Greg.” Each word that Greg wrote down was deliberate. He had the option of scribbling out words he wanted to take back—something you can’t exactly do when you’re speaking. It filled me with such warmth to know that Greg took the time to sit at his desk and write me these letters. And I know that when Greg said it was so good to hear from me that he meant it.
Now that Greg has access to a phone and a computer, he thinks it’s no longer necessary to send letters. But I want Greg and everyone else to reconsider letters’ inferiority as a form of communication. Letters should not just be your last resort. To the couple that lives in neighboring Mods and essentially lives with their significant other, write your boyfriend or girlfriend a little note. It does not have to be anything fancy. You don’t even need to call it a letter—just a simple note.
Channel your inner fifth-grader and make an acrostic poem for your best friend and slip it under his or her laptop. Send a letter to your best friend from high school who goes to school in your home state. Get yourself a piece of college-ruled paper, grab your favorite pen from which the words just seem to flow (Staples 1.0 is my pen of choice), and jot down a few words. You don’t need to view letter writing as an arduous task that you have to “keep up with.” You don’t need to write each other back after every letter, or even write back at all. Just a little note to throw in the mix between text messages and hangout sessions. And men, remember that letter writing is not just for the ladies.