The (Hand)written Word

During a recent bout of spring cleaning, I discovered a thank you note tucked deep in a drawer that my mother had written after celebrating her birthday at our home (we were celebrating my stepfather’s as well – they shared a birthday).  I remember the events she refers to in the letter as if they were yesterday, though it was written three and a half years ago.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, my passion for cooking was largely influenced by mother, and one of our favorite rituals was shopping for and preparing our Thanksgiving feasts together.  The Thanksgiving she was looking forward to in the note turned out to be the first that my daughter, then 8, helped us prepare start-to-finish, my mother patiently teaching her to make pie crust, stuffing, pumpkin custard, and corn pudding.  It also turned out to be the last we created together as she was too frail in her final years.

Had she e-mailed or phoned in the words, they would have been lovely and gracious as were most things she said, but they would not have carried the intimacy of the note in her hand.  I worry that in today’s world, with cursive dropped from curricula and e-mail replacing “snail mail” that the handwritten word, with all of its beauty and power, will be lost.  Touching a letter that has been touched, reading sentiments that have flowed from another’s pen, brings the writer’s voice and physical presence to the reader’s mind.  Handwriting, like laughter and cadence, is an utterly unique expression.

Write letters of love and notes of gratitude.  Sign all of the books you give as gifts.  Urge your children to do the same.  Someday they will be grateful that you did.

Dear Wendy,
Thank you and Tim for such
a lovely birthday celebration for
David and me.  Cocktails, music,
food and family – what more could
anyone want?  And our gifts –
you are far too extravagant my
dear, but we love them.  I am
listening to jazz as I write this.*

We are looking forward to
Thanksgiving – what a fine
group we shall have.  I do
think I will most enjoy our
time together Wednesday and
Thursday morning.

Til then –

L,L,L – M.

*We shared a great love of jazz so I had purchased an iPod, loaded it with her favorite artists, and given it to her with a Bose player so she could take it from family room to porch – her two favorite places.





6 thoughts on “The (Hand)written Word

  1. Wendy, I love this post as I am a lover of hand written notes and letters. I have many from my Mom and Dad that provide me with a needed fix when I miss them most. Like you, I am saddened by the loss of the handwritten word in our world. I try to write at least one hand written note a week – some are thank yous and some just a thinking of you, and some a letter of love to a family member or dear friend. Thank you for sharing this with us. There is nothing like seeing the handwriting of a loved one who is no longer with you in this world. What a wonderful discovery.

  2. Beautiful- all of it- the tonal photo, the writing, the sentiment, the message- matched with your mom’s gorgeous script.

  3. You are so right, and you expressed it so beautifully. I absolutely treasure anything written by my Mom and Dad. Compared to anything else I may have left of them…a piece of jewelry, the old sweater…there is something uniquely personal about a handwritten note. Thank you for your lovely words.

    1. Thank you for your words, Steph. I have many notes saved that you have written to me – some dating back to our college years! I love that you have instilled in your boys how important it is – I hold on to their notes as well. They have inherited your gift of genuine expression.

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