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  • Genine Babakian

Rekindling the Joys of Letter Writing

I began National Letter Writing Month armed with enthusiasm, postage, and a determination to write a card or letter a day.

Throughout the month of April I sent off postcards and letters, tax returns and membership dues. I went through more forever stamps than I’ve used in the past two years. I spent less time on social media and more time being social.

For me, this month-long experiment was all about the process. I was motivated more by rekindling connections than reaching my letter-a-day goal (which I did). A letter that comes in the mail says: Hey, I thought about you, I sat down to write this, and then I sent it on its merry way – a process which took me longer than the 15 seconds required to tap out a message and click.

At the post office, where I became a regular, they had never heard of National Letter Writing Month. Odd, really, when you consider the post office came up with the idea in the first place – presumably to boost postage sales. Jean, the chatty owner of my local stationery store, was also unaware.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked her, incredulous (we had just met). “You should use it as a marketing tool to sell more paper!” I’m not sure if she took my advice, but she did share some hopeful news: stationery sales were up – especially in the past six months. I bought two new boxes.

My daughter was even inspired to send her friend a birthday card. Since it had been five years since she last sent anything through the post, I considered this to be a major milestone – especially given the obstacles she faced.

“I couldn’t figure out how to get the card in that blue thing,” she later told me.

“The envelope?” I asked.

“No,” she shook her head. “That big thing that stands outside the post office.”

“The mailbox?” I said.

At least she now knows what a mailbox is – and how to use one. That alone was worth this month-long experiment. But there were many more pleasant surprises. Like the unfinished letter I found that I’d written to a friend from Moscow in November of 1993, weeks after the showdown between President Boris Yelstin and his Parliament erupted into violence. Yeltsin sent tanks in to clear out his opposition, and the center of the city echoed with the sound of shots for the better part of the day and night. That evening, as I described in my letter, people were strolling the city’s wide boulevards and watching the night sky light up with the firefight, as jovial as if it were a national holiday. I added a postscript, and sent the letter 25 years late.

This month was about the joys of writing letters, not receiving them. But I am grateful to those who wrote me back – especially my mother-in-law, whose letter arrived on the last day of the month: two hand-written pages on the thin, blue airmail paper I had not seen since I was a teenager.

I pulled out my new ivory stationery to write her back, although I’d already turned the calendar to May. National Letter Writing Month be damned – I think writing letters should be a year-round activity.

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