Monday, September 27, 2010

To the Letter

Fifteen years ago this month, Kirk and I were introduced at a friend’s birthday party. So it was rather fitting that, while rooting around in some keepsake boxes, I found a whole passel of letters and keepsakes from when Kirk and I were in high school.

Lord have mercy, was I in love with that boy :) I couldn’t believe the sheer volume of handwritten notes, drafted during class in the back of spiral-bound notebooks and passed to each other once school was out and we could be reunited once more.

In a fit of nostalgia, I pulled out one of the letters, which waxed poetic with all of the passion and prose of a smitten 17-year-old girl, and read it aloud to him. As I am reading, I am smiling goofily at our sweet past, thinking it is just so great that we have these letters. The words of love and devotion, the tender feelings, it was enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. When I finished, I looked to Kirk, waiting to hear what he would say about the young-and-in-love versions of ourselves.

“Wow,” he said, shaking his head. “You sure were wordy.”

Okay, so I suppose we can’t both be nostalgic. But regardless, it made me really happy that we grew up what seems like minutes before the whole computer era was really ushered in. Yes we were using computers to type reports, and I did have a cell phone for emergencies when I started driving, but there was no emailing or texting our friends. We actually picked up our landline phones or met up with one another to hang out.

My friend's and my "note-book" from high school

I’m thrilled that we have these little frozen pieces of time, written with pencil and paper and delivered by hand. I love that some of them have little drawings or handmade envelopes, and that you can read our moods based on the slant of our words or the number of lines under a particular phrase.

And the letters aren’t just from Kirk and me. I have an entire notebook filled with letters between my friend Jennifer and me, plus several from my friends Becky and Nicole. Colored pens and markers make for interesting reads, with a few written with our left hands to shake things up. No OMGs, or LOLs, or fancy emoticons.

Seeing my own handwriting, my own adolescent words all these years later is such a delight. I can just pictures us sitting in Health class, ignoring Mr. Simpson as we gush about our latest crushes or the last thing we argued with out parents about, all on tiny slips of paper passed to and fro.

We all know the familiar siren call of the new email ‘bing.’ No matter where I am in the house, that tiny little sound will reach my ears and I will last all of three seconds before I rush to my computer to see who it is. An agent? A publisher? My long lost cousin in Nigeria that will pay me a million dollars to help her get into the country if only I send her $10,000 now? Whoever it is, there is that instant gratification for both sending and receiving the email that is both satisfying and fleeting.

However, when I read old emails, I don’t feel nearly as much. My words seem so much more impersonal, the font so clinical, the intangible quality of the computer screen image so uninspiring.

But when a letter arrives? Oh, my, oh my. The thrill of seeing a hand lettered envelope, without any credit card offers or insurance promises plastered on the front, is truly one of the best feelings on earth. Someone not only thought about me, but put pen to paper, composed a note, placed it in an envelope, addressed and stamped it, and took it to the mailbox? In these times, that is quite a bit of dedication!

I read an article this summer in the newspaper highlighting a weeklong summer camp for kids that strictly prohibits cell phones, computers, iPods, and Gameboys. Everyday, the kids must write a letter home using paper, pencils, markers, glitter, and/or stickers. For some of the kids, it is the first hand written letter they have ever sent. How crazy is that? For me, no matter how advanced our technology, there is simply nothing like holding a letter in your hands, or tucking it away in a special place for the next time you want a hit of nostalgia.

Now, I am not a technology knocker. I believe that having email and the like have allowed us to communicate so much better than we ever have in history. No, I for one couldn’t live without all of my newfangled communication devices. Instead, I am simply praising the beauty of a dying art form in hopes that it will not be lost. Go to the store this week. Buy some pretty stationary, a special pen, and a book of stamps. Take some time to write an old friend, your grandmother, or even your spouse.

My husband did just that a few months ago. The day after he went out of town on a business trip, a card showed up in the mail with his handwriting on it. Confused (since it’s the first time it had happened in 9 years of marriage), I ripped open the envelope to find a sweet little card with a smile-inducing hand written note. I loved it so much, I still carry it with me everywhere I go in the side pocket of my purse.

Kirk's card to me :)

A simple gesture, costing only a little time and a few dollars, but one of the most heartwarming there is. Will you send someone a letter today? Who do you think will most appreciate the gesture, or be most surprised by it? When was the last time you received an unexpected note from someone?

I was thinking today that it was time to share more icing recipes. The groom's cake that I made for a friend's wedding last weekend featured a chocolate liquor laced peanut butter frosting that was quite popular. You can make this recipe with chocolate milk instead of liquor for a PG version ;)

Wakeboard binding Groom's cake with chocolate peanut butter icing

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)

1/3 cup shortening

1/4 cup Simply Jiff peanut butter (yes, the brand does matter in this case. Get the white-labeled 'Simply' Jiff jar)

4 cups powdered sugar (1 pound package)

2-4 Tbsp Godiva Chocolate Liquor or Horizon chocolate milk

Beat together the butter and shortening. Add peanut butter. Slowly beat in powdered sugar, adding the liquor/milk as needed. Use as much or as little liquid needed to reach desired consistency.


  1. Love it! I still have a shoe box full of old jr. high and high school notes I just can't bear to part with - some between me and my now husband, others between me and various friends. It is so fun to go and read one every now and then!

  2. Wow, junior high! Jenn, that's so great. It always just makes me smile to read my own letters and remember the girl I was :)
    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. I love this post! I love hand written letters...I feel exactly the same way you do about it. And I can't believe that story about the camp! There's just something that can make my heart leap to see that envelope with my name on it. I am very very lucky that my husband is so wonderful at giving me little letters from time to time, and I never take it for a matter of fact, the only thing I have in my fireproof safe is my marriage certificate, a few of my favorite pictures...and every letter Ryan has ever given me. No money, no jewels -- just the treasure of nostalgia. I'm glad you got to go treasure hunting this weekend:) Thanks for reminding me to write more!

  4. I loved pouring through some of those notebooks when Pat and I were visiting you. What a fantastic piece of our childhood to hold on to. It's always nice to go back to a simpler time and remember the details of any given day. Very cool post. I miss you!

  5. Kara, I love how you and your husband are always sending little notes - and the occasional video - back and forth :) I hope you guys will continue that at least until your 90's!

  6. So true, Jennifer. To read the things that were sooo important at the time always makes me smile. 'How could my parents ground me for talking on the phone? How totally unfair!' ;)
    I hope you guys will be able to come visit again soon!

  7. I can't remember the last time I sent, or received, a letter--I used to do it a lot, but now it seems like SO MUCH WORK. LOL I did a blog post a while ago about people writing letters when it really WAS a lot of work, and they cranked letters out like crazy. Heck, they even wrote BOOKS that way. LOL But the ease of email is just so seductive. Plus it might shock someone if I sent them snail mail. LOL

    Great post. And Happy 15-Year-Meeting-Kirk Anniversary. :)

  8. Tell me about it, Donna - can you imagine writing an entire book using paper and pen?? Shoot me now, lol! Thanks for stopping by and putting a smile on my face :)

  9. What a wonderful post.I love old letters, but we have moved so often, I only have a few.

  10. How sad to have lost the old ones, Clarissa. Perhaps you should send a few to your husband to start a new cache ;) Or better yet, random letters to your kids so they can have the fun of opening mail outside of their birthdays :)
    Thanks for dropping by!

  11. I'm a nostalgia-lover too, loved this post :) And I love that Kirk sent you that random card...sometimes it's the surprise gestures from those who rarely do it that mean the most. Not to say my brother's million cards don't mean as much to Kara, but theirs could fill a room, whereas Kirk (and Cole) are a little less wordy. Which is funny since Cole is a writer :) But I still love the occasional surprise note I find in my luggage or in my computer!
    And this was a good reminder to send a surprise card to someone. I've always loved doing that as much as I love receiving one. Snail mail is so rare these days, it's a treat to give someone that pleasure.
    I wish I still had my school notebooks. I do have a diary from when I was 7 and boy crazy, which is hilarious. I agree that reading something from our earnest past-selves has a distinct time travel quality. Love it.