A snowstorm delayed the dreaded, yet inevitable removal of a major part of my personal life.
That life lay out on the curb, stuffed inside the recycling bin, waiting for the hauler to take it away for processing into something I can only hope ends up useful.
It was time to let them go: all the letters an cards received from the mid 1980s to the mid 2000s. Hundreds and hundreds, no, thousands. But I didn’t bother to count or read them all one last time.
Let’s say I perused them, especially the ones from the special correspondents. I picked out a greatest hits for safekeeping and perhaps, another read years from now.
These letters arrived from all corners of the Earth and all corners of the heart. Several of the correspondents wrote me well over a hundred letters. It was the last great age of letter writing and card sending. Of course the Internet killed the genre for all time, and the loss to our culture is incalculable.
So why am I discarding these treasures?
I have no one to leave them to.
I needed to move forward and not look back.
I have no relationship anymore with the recipients.
Many of them are too painful to revisit.
They taught me what I needed to be taught in this final perusal.
I have 150 volumes of personal journals for personal reference and don’t need the correspondence anymore.
I’m trying to reduce my personal possessions so they fit inside a 24-foot RV.
The stories contained within the correspondence have died away or the Matt they were writing to back then died as well.
I just looked out the window again. The bin is still there, waiting for the hauler. It’s still slick outside. Maybe one more day.
I still write letters. A few people still write me. I received an unexpected Christmas letter the other day from a former teaching colleague. What a joy it was to hear from this far flung friend. Of course I wrote back. I always do.
One afternoon, over three decades ago, I got together with a woman for a unique short-lived relationship and I asked why she’d decided to take up with me.
“Your letters. The letters.”
Can that letter writing magic still happen to people today, outside of those who are incarcerated? That horrible state is probably the last bastion of letter writing left in America. What a strange development, that something so cruel, barbaric and debilitating—imprisonment—could keep the hope of love letters alive.