A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from one of my very good friends. Attached to the email was a letter that a mutual friend had sent to her to forward to me, as she didn’t have my email address. The date of the letter was January 28, 1978.
Apparently, in packing for a move, this friend came across a variety of letters and photos and other mementos that she had saved for, well, at least 40 years. For the record, I am lucky to find a single lock of my son’s baby hair. I take after my mother in that I rarely save memorabilia. Often to my chagrin, I’m afraid.
The particular letter was two pages of fairly small, and remarkably neat, handwriting. My handwriting. Again, for the record, I complain about addressing envelopes containing Easter cards for my grandkids. It KILLS me to sign my name to a check. And yet, I wrote a two-page letter to my girlfriends, something I think I did very often back in those days.
This particular letter was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, it was written in the neatest cursive handwriting possible. If this letter was placed in a time capsule and opened in 2035, whoever opened the envelope would without hesitation say, “This letter was written by a girl who attended Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade in the 1950s,1960s, and 1970s.”
Except for one thing. Let’s see, in 1978, I had just graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.S. in journalism. And yet. AND YET, I insisted on not capitalizing anything but the first word of every sentence. Names were not capitalized. Proper nouns were not capitalized. I was apparently channeling e.e. cummings. But even while channeling the famous poet, I was unable to not capitalize the first word of each sentence. It was like I could feel Sr. Calista’s looming wooden ruler.
The second interesting thing about the letter was that it was written in part as a thank you note following my marriage to my first husband. A marriage that, if you asked me today, I would tell you there really wasn’t a single happy minute. #bigfatlie, because according to this letter, my husband and I were living a life of complete contentment. Quite honestly, I think I was telling the truth. I think the reality is that we actually did have some happy years. Well, maybe happy months.
It was a fascinating study in sociology to read this letter from so long ago. As I read, I kept trying to remember this young woman of only 25 years old, who, at that point had lived most of her life in Nebraska. She seemed someone totally foreign to me, what with her excitement over the casserole dishes (with baskets!) that these two friends had given her and the shower massage head that she and her new husband had bought with their wedding money. It is just kicks, this strange woman wrote to her friends.
But here’s the thing that struck me the most: this letter — written 40 years ago — still exists. I could still hold it in my hand. While it was difficult to recognize myself, it was solid proof of my life back in 1978. I don’t think emails or texts or tweets or Instagram posts will ever meet our needs in the same way.
And imagine that these women are still friends even today…..