It might be a dying art, but there is something so special about the handwritten letter.
I have saved so many over the years; some from friends, most from family.
None were more special than those from my Aunt Mary.
She was 6 years younger than my mother, her only sister. She was more devoted to the written word than anyone I knew.
She wrote constantly. She read everything.
It was a passion that started very young.
She was stricken with polio as a toddler, spent most of her childhood in a Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia, never attended a formal school.
Bright, curious, determined, with a few tutors, she was mostly self-taught.
Books opened doors to a rich, informed life.
Conversant in popular culture, a devoted fan of cinema, TV, modern and classic literature; she was also politically aware, passionately opinionated.
She was also a foodie, wine enthusiast, gourmet cook. Engaged a few times, but mostly single until age 70, she married a widower that she knew from her daily subway commute to a job at AT&T.
She and my mother exchanged handwritten letters every week for their entire life. When I left for college, she began writing to me.
Her letters were full of life philosophy, current events, advice, and the most vivid details of her not-so-ordinary life. They were special, I would often quote from them, to the point where friends would look forward to my trip to the dorm mailbox, asking if there was a letter from Aunt Mary.
For decades, we exchanged those letters. There were some gaps in time when life got a bit crazy for us both. Months, even years passed.
But oh, what a joy it was to start up the exchange once again.
I have hundreds of them. I hope to find a way to compile them one day. Maybe in that first published book, maybe just as a way to pass along some of her wisdom to the next generations.
She passed away in her sleep at age 80 in 2012.
Her joy of living, her love of family, her wisdom and her many words survive.