When I was a kid, I had a number of friends with whom I was pen pals. Either they were friends who had moved away, or they were school friends I didn't see much during the summer, and so we wrote letters to each other during the summer months. I found not much in my young life more exciting than checking the mailbox to discover a letter for me, even from someone with whom I had just spent an hour talking on the phone.
These days, the only real letters I get are from my father, who is probably one of the last great letter-writers of this era. I look forward to them to the point that early on in our marriage, Bob was a bit jealous of the attention I focused on them (how could I possibly want to read a letter from my father more than I wanted to hear Bob's blow-by-blow description of the final inning of last night's baseball game?). Every so often, my mother writes me a letter, but that's very rare. I get cards at Christmas, but basically, my friends and I rely on email and Facebook these days.
I'm not about to go on and on about how the computer age has ruined the fine art of letter-writing. After all, this age with its blogs, which have allowed me to meet people I never would have otherwise, and Facebook, which has allowed me to get back in touch with long-lost friends, is not something you will ever hear me criticize too much. However, I sometimes long for those days when long, interesting missives were exchanged between friends and relatives. Even more, I long to have a really good excuse for feeding my pen and stationery fetishes.
I found this longing intensified while reading the winter issue of Slightly Foxed, which has an article about The Lyttleton Hart-Davis Letters. I don't often read collections of letters, but when I do, I tend to find myself thinking I really ought to read them more often. They're so fascinating, such a great way to find out so much about those who write them, as well as the times in which they lived. This one sounds particularly good (although Slightly Foxed manages to make everything sound particularly good, so I'm not sure how I'd find it if I were actually to read the -- six volume! -- work).
It doesn't matter, though. Even if the letters were all deadly dull, I'm horribly jealous of those like Lyttleton and Hart-Davis who had these wonderful correspondences that lasted years. It sounds as if they covered almost every subject imaginable, carried on "friendly" arguments with each other, and shared book recommendations. Doesn't that sound like fun? Maybe I'm weird, but I want someone who will write letters like that with me. I thought I'd be doing so once I moved to Pennsylvania, but somehow, I just don't seem to make the time. I've written a couple of letters to a couple of friends since moving here over a year ago, and that's been it.
Then I had a brilliant idea: why not make letter-writing a New Year's resolution? (You will discover this month that I have a rather ad-hoc attitude towards New Year's resolutions.) To that end, I have decided to invite my blog readers to be my pen pals. In order not to bite off more than I can chew, here is what I am going to do:
1) Choose 5 pen pals for 2009
2) Promise to write each pen pal a real letter at least once a month
3) Promise not to resort to email substitutions
4) Promise that, although occasionally I might resort to word-processed letters, you will get at least six genuine, pen-to-stationery letters in your mailbox from me
5) Write a blog post at the end of the year about my experiences with my pen pals
Are you interested in being my pen pal? (Or maybe I should ask: are you crazy enough to want to receive letters from me?) If so, leave a comment here to that effect. You also have to commit to writing me back (I mean, what's the point in my doing this if the ten-year-old in me doesn't get to race out to the mailbox to see if I've got a letter everyday?). In the unlikely event that I get more than five interested parties, I will put your names in a hat and draw 5. Once I have my 5, I will let you know who you are, and we can exchange snail mail addresses with each other.
And if no one's interested? Well, there's a New Year's resolution that can't possibly be my fault if it gets broken, can it?