The most wonderful thing about letters is the time lapse. You walk out to the mailbox with an anticipation, however mild, for the short stack of papers that’s inevitably waiting inside when you pull down the hinged door. If your mailbox is anything like the ones where I’ve been getting my mail for the past few years, most of that paper isn’t for me. But if just one item says Miss Linda Sullivan on the front, that mild anticipation fizzes and pops like a cork out of a champagne bottle. A letter for me! Wee!
The interesting thing about the time lapse in letters, especially in a generation of immediate and technologically assisted gratification, is the concept that someone was thinking of you a few days ago, even a week ago, but not necessarily, and probably not right now.
A letter takes time to fashion. You must first decide to write it. It takes time to gather pen and paper, or fancy stickers and cardstock. Time to print pictures or make CDs. Time to send packages with pieces of clothing inside. It takes time to write—to craft words that mean something and say what you mean to say instead of saying something else. It takes time to find envelopes and buy stamps and maybe even to find the post office. It takes years to build up an address book of all the folks you like, and then they move and don’t live there anymore so it takes time to chase them around in order to write them so they know you still like them. Writing letters takes time.
And so when I open my mailbox and there’s a letter for me, I know that whoever claims the spot on that return address label took the time. Took the time to fashion something that would float around in baskets with wheels and comfortably in the bed of a white postal truck for days as it made its way from zip code to zip code, finding me. And by the time I get that letter, the time that was spent tangibly saying I love you is over. It was days ago, but I’m just getting tuned in now, standing at the mailbox. Sending letters is like constantly playing catch-up.
I find the warm feeling at the mailbox, the one that recognizes the time lapse in communication and appreciates it, more fulfilling than the vibration of my phone, alerting me to a text message or the white bar in my gmail inbox that says I have an unread email. I love those things too, and I experience mild excitement when they happen. Truly, I do (Is that sad?). But, the satisfaction of time lapsed love is far superior to me. And even a little bit more mysterious. And so, this is why I will always write letters and love receiving them.