The Last Word : Hallmark holidays
Nowadays we bemoan the "electronification" of our correspondence, meaning that no one writes letters by hand anymore. Everything is done via email. Now that's clearly a broad statement, and I know that there are many of you who would deny that contention. So I ask, when was the last time you slapped a 44-cent stamp on an envelope that wasn't destined for a creditor? Aha! I'm not talking about the business correspondence many of us deal with, or formal dealings with insurance companies, I'm talking about the old-fashioned communication of letters between friends.
When I was a kid, albeit a long time ago, my cousin and I had a lively correspondence. We wrote to each other pretty much every other day, with the reward being a little pink or pale green (girlie stationery) envelope in the mailbox in an almost constant flow. I can't remember what the heck we wrote about, but one has to remember that not only was this in the dark days before email, but it was also in a period of American history when long distance telephone calls were expensive and never initiated between teenage cousins. Never. Ever. So, we wrote. With both of us being nascent writers of fiction, these letters, I can only pretend to remember, would have been funny, with bits of stories played out. Writing was (gasp) fun.
A little later on, I had a spell of corresponding with boys. One in particular was a young man who had come to stay with us when his cousins made their yearly visit. I had such a crush. Scott and I fell into a game of re-titling famous books. The only one I remember is "The Good Earth," which we labeled "The Great Dirt." Very clever. The joke went on for a couple of letters over the winter, then, like the letters themselves, it all petered out.
In this day and age of texting, Twitting, Facebooking, etc., there is still one snail mail custom that people of all generations cling to - the greeting card. For the purposes of this article, I'm ignoring the electronic version of greeting cards that do things like play music and build snowmen pixel by pixel. Having just lived through the month of June, which surely must be the most sacred month in the year for greeting card purveyors, jostling through the crowds at Rosebud, Mardell's or the Secret Garden for Father's Day, graduation, birthday, sympathy, anniversary, wedding, and (gleefully) new baby cards, I am struck by the avidity of teenagers, middle-agers, and crones like me to find the exact right card for every occasion - and the greeting card companies' near perfect score in providing that card.
As a writer, one would think that I'd prefer the blank card, a small white space meant for my own pithy statements. Sometimes I do. More often the card writers do such a nice job for me that all I need do is add a word or two. I picture these writers in tiny cubicles, penning their haiku felicitations with fountain pens, Yanni playing overhead. I'm not inclined toward the mushy, heavily sentimental three-fold treatises to mom or saccharine epigrams to a husband; I like the arch or ironic, to which I can add the appropriate sentiment. All the better if the front has a dog in goggles on it.