I miss old-fashioned handwritten letters

Published 2:31 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

By By Lloyd Albritton
It does not seem so long ago when we did not have word processors, video camcorders and cassette tapes, or cellular telephones with national long distance calling plans. In those days people weighed the cost of a long distance telephone call earnestly before dialing. In the end, most of us opted for a tablet of lined notebook paper and a handy writing pen for long-distance communication via the U. S. Postal Service.
Writing a letter was a deliberate, thoughtful process, and the words we put on paper were sweetened by the personality profile reflected in the writer's unique script. Receiving a handwritten letter from a distant friend or loved one conveyed a thrill that has not been replaced by any of the modern communication devices commonly used today. Girls often laced letters to their sweethearts with a dash of perfume, and the fellows would take their time fondling and whiffing the enchanting cargo before opening the envelope and reading it. A handwritten letter was much more than just words. It was more like a personal gift.
When I left home, my mother wrote me regular letters and I wrote her back. Sometimes my father would write too. I loved those letters and I often ripped the envelope to shreds in my haste and excitement to read news from home. I lay in my bed late at night and read them over and over. I received many letters from my girlfriend then too, later to become my wife, and I wrote her many returns. After we were married we continued to write letters when I was away from home on overseas military duty. She kept all my letters in a little memoir box and we occasionally reread them during the years of our marriage and laughed together at the youthful bluster and pomp of my pretentious magniloquence.
I exchanged letters with several close boyhood friends for a time after we all left school and home and went our separate ways. During my years of military service, I acquired many friends and exchanged letters with them when our assignments took us in different directions. One such friend, a fellow from New Jersey named Alfredo Velasquez, who I met in Viet Nam in 1970, has remained my closest friend to this day. Al and I enjoyed writing letters to one another for many years. In those letters we shared some of the news and events of our lives, but mostly we just rambled and philosophized in the manner of our personal conversations. Our letters to one another frequently ran 15-20 pages in length. On occasion my wife would ask, "How is Al's family?"
"I don't know," I would often respond, "he didn't say."
"Do you mean he did not say a single thing about his family in that long letter? What in the world do you two write so much about?"
"Mostly," I told her, "we just talk about a whole lot of nothing." Truly, I loved reading Al's eloquent, larger-than-life Latin expressions and his large, loquacious handwriting, no matter what he had to say. Our many letters through the years revealed, I think, the depth of our souls to one another and that has had much to do with our enduring friendship. I do not see my friend Al much these days and we have not exchanged letters in some time. I spoke to him on the telephone recently, and at the end of our conversation, he made an unusual request. "Write me a letter!" Al insisted. "Not a typed letter, either, and not an e-mail. Write me a handwritten letter. And I will write you back."
That sentiment brought to my mind just how much I also have missed the letter exchanges that used to be such an integral part of our friendship. But not just this friendship. All my friendships! Having embraced the wonderful world of word processing in its early development, complete with spell checkers and easy editing features, I have not written a personal letter by hand in several years. Consequently, just as computers and calculators have caused the atrophy of my basic math skills, my handwriting dexterity has deteriorated with a lack of use.
Many years ago I began a personal writing project which has given me much satisfaction and edification through the years. There never seemed to be enough time to write all the personal letters I wanted to write to my friends, so I began sending out a duplicated typewritten letter to all my friends and relatives. I called it The Albritton Letter. This project eventually evolved into the current version of The Albritton Letters, a series of treatises published on the Internet and read today by thousands of people all over the country, and recently introduced as a column in The Atmore Advance. I love to write and modern word processing technology has made it possible for me to write more, and to write better. Still, I often feel a longing to sit down with a good writing pen and a clean sheet of paper and write a personal letter to a friend. And, though I enjoy receiving e-mails and phone calls from my friends, how I would love to go to my mailbox one day and find a big, fat handwritten letter in it addressed to me! I get excited just thinking about it!

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