I have several hatboxes in my closet with letters tied in bunches with ribbons.  Yes, I know I am old fashioned. I have always loved writing letters.   Although more than that, I love to receive them.  I have love letters, letters from friends in summer camps, precious letters from my grandfather with his magnificent artistic handwriting and from my grandmother who rarely wrote letters but did when I was away at college.  I have letters from friends who lived only a few miles away and letters from my brother who lives thousands of miles away.  I save them all.

I’ve heard talk about email reviving the art of writing letters but the ding of an incoming email or text message is just not the same thing as finding a lovely colorful jewel in the mailbox that was hand delivered and mixed in with boring, white enveloped bills.  It’s magical.

Sometimes you’d wait for days or weeks for a letter.  The waiting made the arrival even more exciting when it finally showed up.

Whenever my family went on a camping trip, which we did each summer, invariably I’d become friends with someone in a neighboring campsite who might for a time become my pen pal.

Occasionally I’d be lucky and one would hang on for a number of years. Pam was one of those.   She and I met on a camping trip to Cape Ann, Massachusetts when I was about 9 years old.  We wrote voraciously for many years.

Once in awhile we even exchanged a phone call.  Pam enjoyed hearing my New York accent, which of course I wasn’t aware of having.  Around the time I went to college she and I stopped writing.  She and I recently reconnected via email but somehow it just isn’t the same.

My other long time pen pal is Ine whose name and address I got via Seventeen Magazine.  Ine lives in Holland and we’ve been writing to each other for decades.  Our pen and paper friendship does dip into email once in awhile when one of us gets concerned that we haven’t heard from the other for a while.

Ine and I have lived our lives through our letters, from teenage angst to college and careers, from the death of her parents to the adoption of my son.  It’s all there on paper and written in ink, stamped and mailed.

She keeps my life and I keep hers, never to be deleted, bundled in a hatbox and tied with a ribbon.

Mixed Media © Janice Fried 2009