Letters under the Stairs
Last night I was chatting with colleagues over dinner about letter-writing and how it has been replaced by e-mails, tweets and Facebook. I wondered, do people who pour their hearts out in e-mails save their e-correspondence? Remember those faded bundles of letters lovingly tied up with ribbon our parents and grandparents kept tucked away in the underwear drawer?
Several summers ago, in a fit of organization, I cleaned under the basement stairs. There, I stumbled upon a box filled with teenage memories- report cards, concert ticket stubs, autograph books, photos of favorite musicians, and a big bundle of letters from my best friend, written when my family left St. Catharines for a new life in Ottawa. For six years, my best friend and I corresponded weekly, pouring our hearts out in hand-written pages, 2, 3, 4, 5 pages long. Letters from one pre-teen to another about our families, car trips and pets morphed gradually into letters from one teenage girl to another about fashion, boys, music and rock bands. And then, one day, the letters stopped, and we were no longer in each other’s lives.
I sorted the letters by date, carefully reading each of them, increasingly being transported to a magical time long ago:
June 12, 1962: “The chicken which Sue caught is now living on a farm with some other chickens for company”.
June 9, 1965: “Well, I’ve just got to tell you for I can’t wait any longer. I have for you a ticket to see the Beatles whom I know you’ll be thrilled to see in person”.
As I read the letters, I felt a sweep of nostalgia for those innocent times so long ago when written communications required paper, an envelope and a stamp. Then, I carefully returned them back into that treasure trove of memories under the stairs, perhaps to be read again one day when I am old.