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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Writing Letters To Your Grandchildren (Simple Gifts)



I thought I would write again. I write you many letters with pens which are not seen. Do you receive them?
-Emily Dickinson
Sometimes the most simple of gifts can also end up being the most treasured. This is the case with letters from grandparents and I'm going to tell you why. Unlike a child's parents, many grandparents enjoy an extra special bond with children. An unconditional love and slightly slack set of rules makes for, in many cases, a child's first best friend. They know you understand them and feel at ease in confiding things to and despite the enormous age difference you're most on their level. This is especially true when children are very small.

Now with many people waiting longer to get married and have children, the time grandchildren are able to physically spend with grandparents has become smaller or in many cases non-existent. This is how letters can play an extremely important role in your grandchild's life. Not only do they need to know you're thinking of them, they need to be reminded when you pass on. They need to hear those stories again... the ones you've already told them 100 times. They want to know all about you and where you and they come from. They'll want all of your recipes and have questions they never were able to ask answered.


Through your letters to them you'll be able to be a part of their entire adult lives and even passed on to their children. Best of all, since letters are so personal, you won't have to worry about people fighting over them or, hopefully, selling or throwing them away. Things common to peoples estates when they pass on.

"[letters] give the gift of ourselves"

So start writing! Write the grandchildren you have now. Write the ones that might come later. Even those older ones who blow you off, take you for granted or act disrespectful-they're the ones who often feel the most pain and need to hear from you when you pass on. You can write the ones who haven't come yet or to nephews and nieces if you haven't any of your own children. Write while you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50, write at 100.

Tell a story or just jot down the highlights of your day. They might write you back and make the exchange even more personal. Or you may leave them a huge bundle that were never actually mailed. Either way this is a personal plea-write, write, please write! It's a gift that so few receive nowadays but one that so many need and will cherish.


Inspirational Books To Get You Writing

- "Finding The Right Words" by J. Beverly Daniel. This small book is perfect for giving quick advice on how to write personal notes and cards. From birthday greetings to well wishes on a new home it's great to have tucked in your desk when you need a bit of inspiration.

- "The Pleasures of Staying In Touch - Writing Memorable Letters" by Jennifer Williams. One of the most beautifully written non-fiction books I have ever read. If this fails to get you up and writing I'm not sure what will. It's that moving. Along with Williams gentle guidance the book also includes many antique letters to further get your juices going.

- Michelle Lovric followed up her immensely popular anthologies with a book about writing love letters because so many fans wrote her asking her how. How to Write Love Letters (Shooting Star Press) is a miniature version of her two previous books but packs in so much content it'll literally be one of the only books you'll ever need. If you only get one letter writing book, make it this one! It merges her knack for finding delicious letters with sage advice on style and format for writing your own missives. Once again a real feast for the eyes and soul.

- "Gift of a Letter" by Alexandra Stoddard. Like the above this is a beautifully written and quite personal account of how letter writing can add such richness to life. As Stoddard explains writing a letter is, "giving the gift of ourselves" and encourages people to "write from your heart" and "express intimate, immediate impressions".


Letter Writing Paraphernalia

Here are a few things you'll want to pick up so you start writing:


A Small Journal


As Alexandra Stoddard suggested in her book, "Gift of a Letter", that you want to share intimate, immediate impressions in your letters when ever possible. When you read the amazing letters of people like the French writer Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) for example, it shows how well this style can work to bring the reader in. To help capture these moments find a small (tiny) journal and carry it around with you. Throughout the day or in the evenings jot tid bits down and then transfer them to your letters.


A Good Set Of Pens


Look for pens with archival acid free inks and a comfort grip so you won't suffer from finger and hand fatigue. Pick a pen that works for you and that you're use to using. If writing by hand is too hard by all means use a typewriter, computer or tape recorder. What ever is around to get the job done.


Acid Free Writing Paper


Many stores now offer acid free archival papers in all sorts of hues. White and creams are best because they're the easiest to read and keeping away from ruled pages is also a good idea (the inks used might have acid). One shouldn't worry about being perfect or having the lettering this way or that on the paper. The main thing is to get writing and do all you possibly can to help it stand the test of time.

Postcards

If long drawn out letters are not your thing try using postcards. Find old ones or simply write on the backs of photographs. Send 10, 20 or 30 while you're on vacation or a whole bunch around the holidays. Mix it up and it'll feel like fun instead of something you have to do.



Speaking of the test of time, good old pen and paper will do just fine. If you do write things online make sure you print things out and keep a few hard copies around. We still have tablets from ancient Egypt and Codex's from Mexico but the floppy disks I have things saved on from a few years ago are useless at the moment. Computers and the Internet are a small blip on the history of time and have, so far, proven to be very unstable.

Things quickly get replaced and outmoded-VHS to DVD, DVD to Blue ray and so on. What's the end result going to be? Who has the time to keep transferring? Websites and e-mail come and go but paper has a way of sticking around for a while.

To read the letters of others and gain more understanding about letter writing, visit one of the best websites on the subject, Letters, Letter-writing and Other Intimate Discourse by Wendy Russ.

One of the ironies for me is that everyone talks about electronic media bringing people closer together, and I think this is a way we wind up more separate. We don’t have the intimacy that we have when we go to the attic and read grandma’s letters.
Aaron Sachs, a professor of American Studies and History at Cornell University


Image: Mixed Media by MAM for GaveThat.com

Also Read:
- Sex & The City Love Letters Book Wasn't Real But These Are
- Random Acts Of Kindness Right Now - Postcrossing

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