When I was 11 years old, I bought a red journal that was covered with little Teddy Bears. It had a gold lock and a single gold key. My mom bought it for me, on a rainy Sunday on the corner of Barclay Street at Hallmark. Right across from the Twin Towers. It was one of those things where I was a kid, and I had this thing that I really wanted in my hand, and my Mom had already said, “No.” We couldn’t buy it. But I stood there as she pulled out cash to pay for her greeting cards, and I snuck the journal onto the counter. My mom saw it and sighed and rolled her eyes and pushed it into the pile of things she was buying. YES!
My first entry was written on October 26, 1986. I wrote in purple 5th-grade Catholic school cursive, and I wrote very simple things like: “I went to school. I took a test. It rained today. See you tomorrow Diary!” That’s how it started. My writing. I was diligent. I was consistent. I hit up the page every single day without missing one. By the summer, I had finished it. I had confessed lots of things that year. My first crush. My period. My love/hate for my friends. My love for Summer Vacation.
I started a new journal right away. I kept journals until the Summer of 2001. Until August of 2001. Then I stopped writing about life and trying to make sense of it. After 9/11 nothing made sense and nothing ever would. I’d lost my enthusiasm for questioning the world, and my sense of wonder went down with the buildings.
But I still wrote letters. With my hands. With a Burgundy Fountain Pen, my brother had gotten me as my college graduation present. I had always loved writing letters. In High School, I took Linguistics and we had a class journal. We each got to take it home and write an entry. I got to take it home over Thanksgiving break, and I finished the journal. Like, I wrote for maybe 26 pages or something. BUT, that’s because my dog died over that break, and I had a lot to say. When my teacher realized what I’d done, she asked me if I wrote much. I said I did. She asked me in what form, and I said, “I write in my journal, and I write letters.” She asked, “What types of letters?” I explained to her that I wrote letters to everyone. To every one of my friends, to my family members and to anyone special. I told my teacher that I was much better at expressing myself on paper than I was in conversation and that my letters usually ran ten pages +. She had me start writing for the school newspaper, “Strange Brew.”
Letters. I remember picking out the stationary. Some letters were written on special paper. Cranes. Some were written on the yellow legal pad. I used colored ink for fun letters. Ballpoint black for serious. Purple for love letters. Pencil for goodbye letters. I used to go to Pearl Paint on Canal Street and buy my supplies. The envelopes were important too. Some letters went in an envelope. They were addressed with really neat handwriting and the stamp was specific too. I’d go to the post office and ask to see what they had … Some letters got just the American flag. Some got a heart stamp. It depended on what I was saying. Some letters got no envelope, and I’d fold it in four and hand deliver.
My favorite letters to write, though … were love letters. I’d be friends with a guy, and there would be some unspoken energy and then I’d go home and the process would start. The paper, the pen the words. I’d start with something like … “You looked good today … different. I felt good today … when I was with you. It was different ~ this time somehow?” Most times I just started the writing. I wouldn’t do the “Dear So & So,” I would just begin in on the feelings. And I would say it all. Everything I had thought about. Everything I had wanted to say. All those many nights when he’d left me at my doorstep kissless. I put it all on the line literally and watched the ink pour over the pages. Sometimes I’d write on the back of the yellow legal pad paper because I liked the feeling of the bumpy words from the imprint of the front page letters. And when both sides were filled the sheet would somehow feel heavy. The words had weight. When I wrote, while I thought I’d doodle in the corners of the page. I’d write in the margins. The letter was one of a kind. And it was for you. For who ever you were to me at that time. And all the feelings were there. Right down to last words on the 8th page … “So you left. And I missed you. And I wanted to call you and tell you to come back because I think about you when I’m not with you. And when you were playing the air guitar… I think I fell in love with you. Right then in that moment. And maybe it’s too much. Maybe I should have kept it to myself because I’m aware you’ll be on that plane tomorrow, and no one knows if you’re ever coming be back…”
The truth I spoke when it was just me and the pen or pencil and the paper had an effect on any person I ever wrote a letter to. At a time when a boy was too cool to let a girl know that he liked her, I would receive a love letter back. And there were no sweeter words than, “I read your letter. I wrote you back. I’ll give it to you when I see you.” W/B.
Remember W/B? And then the letter chain would begin, and it would all be documented on those pages … even in the end when the pencil came out to write the goodbye letter. Writing letters in your handwriting is a gift you can not buy. Writing letters filled with your thoughts on some paper you picked out to someone that deserves to know how you feel because you are both worth the chance is a lost art. A lost heart.
Now there are texts that are so incredibly misread and weird because of auto correct. There are emails so impersonal and misinterpreted. And of course, the “GIRLS” 2015 version of hooking up. And THEN comes the infamous Facebook Inbox. What has happened to what we feel? To a quiet room, or park and a heart and head full of thoughts that could be bravely shared in a very personal way …
If there is someone you’d like to express yourself to. Someone you really feel is worth the effort … I’d like to advise you to do this. Buy a pen and paper at… Paper Source… I guess. Think about the pen, think about the point … felt tip or ball point. Think about the color. Think about it all and put the words down in any way you like and I say hand deliver it. That’s romance. And it works. Really in a cold and technical world, I believe romance still works.
Photo Credit: © Elizabeth Regen All Rights Reserved