September 23, 2011

The Joys of Handwritten Letters

Handwritten letters are nostalgic yet rare | GOOD MORNING COLUMN

By Amy Abbott        t
Friday, September 23, 2011
"Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company."— Lord ByronAlas, the lonely handwritten letter is falling away, like the fountain pen, ink wells and blotting paper. As technology changes the way we communicate, why can't we preserve the elegance and tradition of an earlier era?
Does your heart swell when your smartphone alerts you with a buzz that you have an email or a text?
Is it the same feeling you received as a teenager when you ran to your parents' mailbox to pull out an envelope from a far distant sweetheart?
Perhaps he was writing from Vietnam, or college, or maybe he's just a fellow you met at church camp? Ripping the letter open, you first read very fast to get through it, and then the second time you savored each word as if you could make the person appear in the flesh.
This intimacy of pen on paper brought your distant one to you in a way no email or text message could.
I had pen pals early, and I learned from my grandmother and mother the fine art of letter and note writing. Use a good pen with beautiful ink, and write on thick, porous paper.
The big secret to it was: If you write someone, more than likely he will write you back! I have love letters from my grandfather to my grandmother stuffed in a box somewhere, and I have a small gray box with the letters my future husband wrote me while we lived four states apart.
These are treasures, and I cannot imagine how young lovers of today will preserve text messages.
Not too long ago, I wanted to purchase a vintage 1940s pen like the one my grandmother used. The Schaefer pen was gold and black, with a speckled pattern.
I traveled to the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York City, on a sort of pen pilgrimage. Unfortunately, I learned the vintage pens are very expensive and beyond my means.
I purchased a nice reproduction and beautiful notes on which to write.
If you've never written with a fountain pen, try it sometime. The feeling of the ink flowing through the nib onto beautiful paper is the feeling of creating art with your words.
While my fourth-grade penmanship teacher might not agree my handwriting is art, writing with a fountain pen offers an intimate expression of feeling for both the sender and the receiver.
While writing a letter doesn't provide the instant gratification of email, it's a lovely gift to a friend.
— Amy McVay Abbott, amymcvayabbott@gmail.com