The Triple-A Project: Handwritten Cards in the Mail

My family teases me that the highlight of my day is collecting the mail. It’s true; it’s sort of an obsession of mine, this six-days-a-week trip to our rusty, rural mailbox with its red flag and peeling green paint. Part of the allure is the quarter-mile walk each way, down a gravel drive through meadowland that passes one neighbor’s pond and another neighbor’s orchard, a lush organic farm just beyond and a view of evergreen mountain ridges both near and far.

In winter, the snow can melt and refreeze repeatedly into two channels of slick ice, and the trek then requires thoughtful placement of stout boots with decent tread. In spring when it rains, water often rushes down the ditch beside the road, threatening to crest and wash away the gravel. In summer, the heat can be unforgiving, radiating in thick, dry, suffocating waves. And in fall, well fall is usually just about perfect with its promise of shifting hues in the light and plentiful harvest.

Usually when I open the box and scoop up its contents, I’m greeted by bills or junk mail. Occasionally I’ll find a literary journal or magazine. But mostly, the mail is rather dull, which begs the question why am I so mail obsessed?

I think it boils down to Possibility. Every time I open that front-loading door and reach inside, there is the possibility that among the bills and junk, I will be rewarded, like finding the prize from the Lucky Charms box in my cereal bowl as a kid. Those days when a journal or magazine arrives are such days. But even better are the days—very few and far between—when I am surprised by a handwritten card from a friend.

DSCN5855This last week included such a day when a postcard of an Alaskan landscape painting by Sydney Mortimer Laurence arrived from my friend, Elizabeth, who lives in Fairbanks. In her pleasant and fully legible print, she wrote of skiing around the woodsy trails near town, camaraderie and friendship, and how the approach of spring brings deep thinking and analysis. This is the kind of treasure I welcome on my daily strolls to the mailbox, this illuminated possibility that could be lying within ready to brighten the day.

There is something fulfilling and profound about becoming familiar with someone else’s handwriting, a human trait at once individual like our own fingerprints yet depicting character in the way the letters are formed: curvaceous or blocky, a thin scrawl or deliberate as a firm handshake. Handwritten words carry a super-charge that type in email doesn’t embody, nor never will. It’s close, personal, like a whispered conversation.

The way of the old-fashioned letter in the mail has practically disappeared. Kids nowadays aren’t taught in school how to address an envelope. In fact, they’re not even being taught how to write in cursive anymore. Do they even teach handwriting at all? This shift to the digital makes communication fast and efficient, yes, but what of the charm of special stamps and stationary, postcards and pen-pals? I can’t help but feel the younger generations are losing something they don’t even know they’ve lost in this movement toward a more transitory existence. I mean, who prints and keeps copies of emails as a keepsake?

The awesome folks over at The Rumpus are doing their part in keeping the fine art of letter writing alive with their “Letters in the Mail” subscription. Each month, subscribers receive two letters in the mail, written by authors such as Margaret Cho, Rick Moody, and Aimee Bender, to name a few. Some are typed; others are handwritten; all are photo-copied. They’ve even started a “Letters for Kids” subscription with letters written by well-known authors of middle-grade and young adult literature. Their credo: “We’re helping people appreciate the post office at a younger age.” As to their motivation, this is what they have to say:

Six is pretty much the perfect age to start checking your mailbox. And if you’ve waited until you were ten, well, you’re four years behind but still, it’s not too late. And if you’re sixteen, that’s OK, there’s still something of the kid left. And if you’re sixty, well… OK. You’re young at heart.

I think that’s where it comes from, this obsession of mine. It started when I was a child checking the mailbox—an endearment, a joy, a possibility.

There’s one thing about getting a handwritten card in the mail from a friend. It’s called reciprocation. So full disclosure: my friend, Elizabeth, has written me other cards before this one I received last week, and I have yet to do my part and offer her the same moment of fun when opening her mailbox. (So, Triple-A, if you are reading this, please know that I have something special planned for you, and my saying it here binds me to follow through.)

As for anyone else reading this, I have an offer. With this post, I am initiating The Triple-A Project—handwritten cards in the mail. Leave a comment below if you would like to be on the receiving end of the Triple-A Project and then move over to the “Contact” page of this website (links are at the top and bottom of this page) to message me your address (messages are private and don’t appear online). I promise not to share your address with anyone, send you weird shit, or stalk you. I do, however, promise to send you a beautiful postcard with a groovy handwritten message.

Here’s to keeping alive the fine art of handwritten letters in the mail.
Cheers!

17 Comments on “The Triple-A Project: Handwritten Cards in the Mail”

  1. Right up my ally Laurie!!! I’m all over this Triple-A-Project. It must be something about living in a rural setting… I have a sense that you and I live a similar life style – Maine and Washington. I still write post cards and letters longhand and I’m sure my recipients are pleasantly surprised to find “real” mail in their boxes, yet intimidated by the thought of responding… taking the time? What to write? What is it about our society that continuously creates things for instant gratification and convenience (ie: email, smart phones, microwaves, wifi everywhere never mind the crazy schedules we tend to keep), but ends up filling ones time with more “busy work” and depriving us enough time to just sit, think, daydream, create, as well as, correspond.) Enough of my mini rant. I like your offer and the chance to connect with you in this personal way. Good luck with your new endeavor! Blessings, Sarah Brandon P.S I love checking my mailbox – my husband I have an ongoing game of beating each other to our mailbox

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    • Thanks for reading, Sarah! And thanks for responding. I like your “mini-rant” as you call it. All good questions. Yes, I think you are absolutely right about that intimidation with responding. What a shame, huh? It used to be the only way people could communicate from afar. I confess for myself, even though I Idolize the sending of “real” mail, I succumb to the ease of email mostly. So this project is going to be a good practice. That’s funny about you and your husband. My family’s got it down. They know to leave it for me unless I ask them to pick it up. Expect something in your mailbox within the week. 🙂

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  2. Great post Laurie! I couldn’t agree more. I left Australia 16 years ago and always wrote and received letters, though email and text makes communication faster now it can also feel strangely alienating. There is an intimacy with a handwritten letter that I miss! My father passed away 11 years ago and I still have his cards which I cherish and every now and then pull them out to look at. It makes me very happy – but it wouldn’t at all be the same if they had been emails.

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    • I’m so glad you are in on this! I’ve got the perfect postcards to choose from that I know you will love. I’m happy you have cards from your father. Once someone is gone from us, those handwritten relics become all the more treasured. It really does make me sad to think of that disappearing from people’s lives.

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  3. After the mailbox fell over, we went to a PO Box. Not as exciting as walking to the actual mailbox…but still thrilling to find a hand-written card in. Laurie you write just how I think. Enjoying your blog.

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    • Yeah, agreed, not as exciting. But I bet you run into unexpected people at the post office, yes? Thanks for reading and responding, Peter. That makes me feel good to know you are enjoying the blog. Email me your address!

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  4. Laurie, I would love to hear from you in the mail. It might be faster than the phone…. I love your blog. It is the first one I have ever read.

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    • Ha! Yes, it just might be faster. Although now that the weather is improving, I can call you from the mailbox! Make sure you message me your address on the contact page. Thanks for reading! xo

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  5. Laurie, I can not remember the last time I received a handwritten card in the mail. I love this idea for a project….. ummmm may be contagious…… my mailbox is not too far but it is a muddy venture this time of year. Any thing that dare break the shield of gray and mud and resemble warmth and spring will bring smiles…….

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  6. A couple of people so far have expressed interest in receiving a handwritten card but haven’t messaged me their address. Make sure to go to the contact page and message me the address if you want me to send you one! You can also message me on FB if we’re already FB friends.

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  7. WOW—I am so honored to have inspired you! I have been a letter writer all of my life—prodigiously so, before the internet and email arrived. I don’t have a mailbox to walk to. We were offered one out beyond our dirt road, but the snow plows kept mashing the existing ones. I drive to the post office 8 miles away, an errand sandwiched in-between others. When I do get a letter, I decide whether to read it in the car in the parking lot or save it until I get home.

    I’m just so tickled by your project. May your mailbox overfloweth!
    Cheers,
    Triple-A

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    • Thanks for inspiring me! I was a letter writer all my life too until I got sucked into the ease and immediacy of email. I’ve been having fun today writing cards to people. It’s kind of like a meditation, slowing down and being thoughtful about not just what I say but how I place it on the page. Eight miles to the post office! You have me beat. I think ours is about five, but I have the ease of putting letters to send in the box and putting up the flag, as long as I have the postage. Expect the first little something of many to arrive within the week.

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  8. I still love my stationary box most of all. I’ve collected cards from near and far places dear to my heart. In fact I still have some of your beautiful card line you did Laurie of amazing beadwork photographs. I grew up writing my grandparents & of corse thank you’s for gifts and such. So I’m thrilled to jump in and be part of such a great thing. I too am obsessed with going to check the mail box along with my 9 yr old daughter majik. She loves to write and wait for the response :).

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    • I’ve been thinking about you Gina Bean with this project. I remember you collected cards. Didn’t you use to put them up on your wall? I have always done that. Love to collect them too. I’ll send something to both you and Majik! (Don’t tell her though. Let it be a surprise.)

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  9. I am so thrilled to have gotten a postcard without even asking! You read my mind. Now THAT is some good communication. I adore hand-written notes. I know it’s a dying art, but I am not giving up without a fight.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed receiving it without as you say “even asking!” You’ve been on my list, Cary, ever since I got your Christmas card! We can put up the fight together, and hopefully with a little help from our friends. 🙂

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