Snail Mail is my Love Language

Snail Mail is my Love Language

Snail Mail is my Love Language

Growing up, I recall having a pen pal, somewhere in South America. I can't remember her name, which country she lived in or what we wrote about, but I imagine it was something to do with favorite colors, my rock collection, animals and stickers given that it was during the pinnacle of my sticker collecting in fourth grade. They were assigned to us as a classroom project by Ms. Dyett, and we all eagerly began our written friendships with kiddos from further away than any of us could imagine. As with most things at that age, the excitement faded and the letters quit coming almost as quickly as I quit writing them. 

My Nana would write me letters when I was growing up, and it usually arrived with a small, hand sketched scene on the envelope, which I absolutely loved. Those were the letters that I coveted the most for those drawings, which were usually of flowers or trees. The letters were handwritten and usually included some updates about recent visitors, things she was looking forward to like the summer family picnic, or the next holiday, where we would all squeeze into her tiny kitchen and make enough biscuits and dumplings to feed an army. Mostly, though, she would write about everyday happenings, like hanging out laundry, working on her latest sewing project or what she planned to grow in her garden. I loved this the most. Luckily, my mom carried on the tradition of writing letters and sketching in the corner of the envelope, and I now try to carry that on when I send a card or letter. Snail mail truly was, and still is, a love language. 

Now, with the cell phone being an appendage, and our accessibility being more than ever, we can hardly stop long enough to write a text (to expect an immediate response, of course) let alone sit down to write a letter! Or can we??? 

For my 50th birthday last year, my wife bought us a cruise to Alaska. This would be my first cruise and I had no expectations other than to just "enjoy." A couple days in, we were lucky enough to see a pod of orcas, and there was a small gathering of people sitting around the windows, watching together. I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman beside me named Rick, who was on this trip with his son and three grandsons. They were going to go see where he lived and worked in the lumber industry in Alaska during his younger days and see the island where his family lived. They had even scheduled to meet friends from those days who he hadn't seen in 40 years. He had suffered a stroke the previous year, was now in a wheelchair and struggled a little with speaking, but once we got to talking, I was captivated by his stories of salmon fishing, working and starting a family and beautiful life in the Alaskan wilderness. After about an hour of intermittent stories and orca watching, he reached into his pocket and handed me a rock. Those who know me, know that rocks are one of my favorite things. Not blingy, diamonds, but rocks. I was the kid who spent recess looking at the gravel and keeping rocks that made my heart happy. I still come home from trips with pockets full of rocks, or sometimes just one, special rock that had to come home with me. So, when Rick gifted me this small granite stone, I was delighted. I told him about my affinity with stones, something we clearly shared. We continued talking and as we all seemed to be wrapping up since the orca family had clearly moved out of sight, Rick said, "Can I ask you a favor?" I said, "Sure." In all honesty, I had no idea what was coming, but being surrounded by his family, my wife and others who had all become entertained by his stories, I felt like it couldn't be too weird, and if it was, I wasn't alone and could make a quick exit.

He said "If I gave you my address, would you write me letters?" I felt something inside me melt a little, and I quickly said "Absolutely!"  He continued to tell me that he had friends (a husband and wife) that we would exchange letters with for years, but when he had a housefire, he lost their address. A year later, he received a letter from them, but there was no return address on the letter. Gosh...I think about how quickly we could find them now, but that is neither here nor there. My heart broke a little at hearing this, and I was more determined than ever to write.

I will never forget that day I met Rick on the boat, and almost a year later, we still exchange letters, which usually comes in a small box with rocks. I recently sent him a tumbled Petoskey stone, which he enjoyed. He has sent me a beautiful assortment of stones, shells and smooth, tumbled glass. I am thinking about what I will send him next, as I begin writing my next card. It surely won't be any big announcement or update, but it will probably include a small stone, some everyday happenings, what I plan to grow in my garden, and it will definitely have a sketch in the corner of the envelope.

It doesn't have to be fancy or say something poetic. Just write the card, let them know you were thinking of them, stick a stamp on it and make someone's day. It really is that simple. And... if someone hands you a rock, become their pen pal...immediately. 

*Dedicated to my pen pal, Rick.