Falling in love with handwritten letters

I remember reaching my arm into our mailbox as a young girl and getting so excited when in the thick stack of mail, I’d find a letter addressed to me.

Today, I’m still overjoyed to receive a personal letter, though it happens less and less frequently.

There’s just something about the care and time put into a letter that has drawn me back to this old-style manner of corresponding.

When e-mail became the cheaper and faster alternative to our classic postal service, I admit I happily jumped on the bandwagon. I was saving paper, money and time all at once. Who wouldn’t relocate their primary address from their home mailbox to the Internet?

Then in an English class last spring, an assignment drove me to fall in love with genuine letter-writing again.

In partners, we were to spend a few months cultivating a relationship in writing through which we discussed almost everything. One of the most enjoyable parts of the exercise was also the most simple. In writing our letters, we chose an array of stationery, found new ways to decorate our envelopes, and learned different styles of handwriting.

I chose a new pen to use with each letter, and added stickers, colored paper or any other decoration I felt was right. It was the personal touch that made me yearn for the next letter to come in my mailbox each day.

Admiring (or trying to decipher) a person’s handwriting is one of the many things that separate letters from e-mails. The different styles of handwriting can say a lot about the writer’s personality and add a dose of character to the paper.

E-mails afford a quick, easy and often mindless option for keeping in touch. Sure, we all receive heartfelt e-mails from time to time, but most are short and full of incomplete sentences with phrases like “lol,” “btw” and “g2g.”

In a good letter, sentences are well thought-out, everlasting and complete.

But what about special occasions like birthdays or holidays? We’re bound to receive several letters and cards in the mail then, right? Not much anymore, thanks to e-cards. Instead of taking the time and thought to send a real greeting card or to make one, we can now click on a picture of a card and e-mail it to a friend in a matter of minutes.

Letters are the storytellers of our past. From a soldier on the battlefield writing to his loved ones at home, to a king requesting the help of another nation, to the romance of the Reagans, letters tell the stories that become our history.

Once an e-mail is deleted, it disappears into cyberspace. A letter will last forever. An e-mail is a document to look at on a screen, not a piece of paper to hold in hand.

Next time, instead of catching up with a friend in an e-mail, try writing a letter. Who knows – maybe your friend will respond and bring back the true meaning of “You’ve got mail.”

Kailani Koenig-Muenster is a writer for NEXT, a Sunday opinion page in The Seattle Times, and is a junior at Bainbridge High School in Bainbridge Island, Wash. You can e-mail Kailani at NEXT@seattletimes.com.