Author: Denise Varano
Even in this digital world of social media, I celebrate National Card and Letter Writing Month in April. Why? Because it lets me celebrate an area that’s a large and important part of my life.
I started writing letters when I was six years old. I wrote my grandma about my newfound belief in who Santa really was. My dad wrote “Smart kid” in cursive on the letter — I didn’t understand that I had uncovered a secret.
That was the start of my longest exchange of letters with anyone. Grandma Ann lived to be 102. A second-generation Lithuanian with a sixth grade education, her letters were not perfect. Did it matter?
In my youth, I continued my letter writing every chance I could. I had overseas pen pals in France, Germany, India and England. I also had a ninth grade English teacher as a correspondent. We both used typewriters and wrote lengthy missives.
My letter writing dwindled somewhere in the 1990s — I was zapped by the digital bug.
Email: no pen and paper, just the rhythmic moving of my fingers on a keyboard. No stickers on envelopes or different colored papers. But a variety of typefaces and “cut and paste” action when I wanted it. Until, that is, when I had a light-bulb moment in my work at the Postal Service.
Up to this point in my career, I’d been a bit hypocritical. I was a writer/editor by trade. So why shouldn’t I set the example and write by mail? I asked an editor in Philadelphia if she would like to correspond. So we exchanged mail. Mail with stickers. Mail that was handwritten. Mail that didn’t hurt your eyes to read because you were looking at a computer screen for eight hours a day. Mail that said, “You’re somebody and I’m taking the time to tell you in this note.”
I’d stood up to the challenge of my job title and upbringing. Yet there was more. In an online publication at work, a Postmaster from Minnesota described how she mailed her granddaughter a letter a day while she was in college. I thought that was neat as I was trying to establish a mail relationship with my young niece. I wrote to the Postmaster complimenting her and asking what she did. She answered. Then I wrote her back. She answered again and we now have a regular friendship through the mail.
Working for the Postal Service doesn’t magically transform you into a letter writer. But it helped me find my letter-writing roots again!
P.S. Even though National Card and Letter Writing Month has officially ended, you can celebrate by writing your cards and letters any day! Check out this cool educational kit that we developed in partnership with Scholastic. It’s chopped full of activities sure to peak your child’s interest in writing.