Social media and shared interest via hashtags and constant scrolling make the world seem a lot of things:
- Sometimes disappointingly so
- A shining oyster
I’m pretty sure kids like me grew up in suburbs with parents acutely wary of stranger danger, trying to get us to at least know some pseudo-karate or how to find some lights to signal distress anytime, anywhere.
So now as I live as a young adult constantly in front of lights—big screen, little screen, 15″, ATM—I think again, many kids like me are peering out into the world, as hungry for adventure as we’ve ever been, and as eagerly open to new friendships in new places.
So as I typed out my real-life home address, the home I grew up at and have never moved from, it was a little weird to send it to a girl my age I met over Instagram. I’m not a YouTuber; I don’t have a P.O. box. And I’m not a real business grown-up so I’m not about to get one.
Charity diligently began a letter to me as soon as we connected (ew what a LinkedIn thing to say) and as soon as I was home from a family trip to San Diego, I rifled through the bills and advertisements of the mail our neighbor had collected. On a small white envelope read my name + @melaniespoon and Charity’s name + @charitylikesbeards, with little leaves and flourishes. I’m not sure if she placed the happy face sticker or if it hitched a ride, but it was perfect for our first piece of penpal-ship!
I broke open the paper above a “Have Courage” sticker, and a warm forest green card was inside. Bits of notes, a cacti postcard and questions to get to know me danced around inside.
I can’t remember the last time I had a penpal, much less one that would be active with me (and I with them) as a kid. The card and doodads felt like they weren’t for me. Here I was in my house looking at a new friend’s face through her handwriting and earnest celebration of kinship as girls, as believers and as dreamers super into Insta. C:
In one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox’s grandfather fondly remembers the letters he exchanged with Cecelia Kelly, then-proprieter of the Shop Around the Corner, a children’s book store. “Cecelia had such beautiful penmanship,” he marveled. Cursive isn’t taught with the same vigor as it was when I was in elementary school. Heck, printing is barely encouraged to improve. It’s considered a pseudo-science to discern character and personality from a person’s penmanship, but it’s a fascinating one at that.
A person’s handwriting is unique and personal and rarely seen today, like a face without makeup or a walk around a childhood neighborhood.
In a world of instantly transformable social media identities—names we choose for ourselves, filters we don, movies we stealthily quote—the timelessness of a handwritten piece of mail is a craft to be savored.
Time to dig into my libraries of paper supplies to send mail back ☺️!
And as Kathleen Kelly’s eyes light up at “YOU’VE GOT MAIL,” the tune of, “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter…” hums. 🙂
Thank you, Charity!! 💕