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Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh

Posted on: July 22nd, 2012 by bubbyjoysandoys

Enjoyed this? Share it, and attribute it. Copyright 2014, Bubby Joys and Oys, M. Hendeles

As the summer is under way,  my mind turns to letter writing. Letters that we send – to friends, family and acquaintances. Thank you cards, post-cards, congratulations messages, sympathy notes, and newsy letters to loved ones expressing caring and what is going on. The summer is that time – when we tend to write more letters. Kids are in camp, families go on vacation and the desire to keep up in writing is prevalent.

Letters these days are written (actually typed) and sent off as a computer email. Letters in the “old days” (read: my days) were written by hand with care, using a pen or pencil. They were  placed in an envelope, sealed and sent off with  a stamp. The receiver of the letter had the opportunity to read and re-read the letter, thus relishing the connection and the relationship between reader and writer.

Both of my grandmothers were avid letter writers. And during the summer they tended to write – or type (on their IBM Selectric typewriters!) more letters than usual.

One of my aunts has gathered all of my maternal grandmother’s letters – skillfully handwritten or typed with her typewriter — into a large binder for all the grandchildren. Many of those letters were written specifically during the summer period of the “Nine Days” (which is happening now) before the fast day of “Tisha B’av.”

As my Oma (grandmother) had said, “The Nine Days are a perfect time for getting these things done – organizing pictures, writing letters, cleaning drawers.” Ever the practical one, she viewed the “nine days”  as a time to  accomplish. Things that we would normally push off — now we can finally do,  because so many pleasurable things (swimming, listening to music, shopping) are off limits to Jewish people who are mourning the destruction of the Holy Second Temple – destroyed almost 2,000 years ago.

Some people claim letter writing – as we know it with paper, pen, envelope, stationery and postage stamp – is on the decline. These people bemoan the loss of writing by hand. They say letters – those cards, aerogrammes (remember them??) and stationery that we filled with our thoughts in handwriting – are a relic of the past. That for the receiver,  the pleasure of reading and re-reading a letter is a thing of the past – unless one takes the time to print out an email received, something many don’t bother to do.

Others claim that letters are still alive and well – not to worry; they are just displayed these days in a different format – the e.mail or text format which one shoots off to cyberspace with the simple press of the send button.

Although it is unlikely that Hallmark is about to go out of business, I do believe writing letters has diminished. So even though I still enjoy browsing the card section at the supermarket, and  I still own a package of personalized thank-you cards, I tend to only occasionally write by hand.

I think back to the summer times of my childhood and how I would sit on my bed in sleep-away camp during rest period, and write long letters to my parents, family and cousins. I recall the excitement of tearing open a letter from my mom during lunch time when we got our mail, and reading my mom’s news and thoughts.

Nowadays, if a kid writes a letter from camp, it is a sign of maladjustment!  (I once heard a camp director declare that to a parent who complained the kid never wrote letters).

……..Camp is very entertaining, and they say we’ll have some fun – IF it stops raining… (from Allan Sherman’s song, 1962)

Well, all kidding aside, I like to think letter writing will never really fade completely away.  That there will always be a need for writing by hand. That there will always be kids and adults who write to each other by hand. (positive or negative news!)  I guess I am in slight denial regarding the death of the letter as we know it  (just as I am in denial of the demise of the  print in books and newspapers, to be replaced by digital formats – kindle and the like). I want to hold onto the fantasy that my own grandkids will be going to camp someday and will write me “Dear Omi” letters.

In the meantime, I will continue to write letters – occasionally. As I clear out the clutter of my desk, and shelves during this period of “getting things done” (which includes cleaning and throwing out), I will hold onto the old and new stationery and keep it where I can find it. Even if it is not used every day, or even every week, or even so much during the summer, I know it will be used – someday.

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