Maybe the hardest thing about this nomadic life I’ve been living for the past year is the mailing address issue. No matter how promptly I put in forwarding orders with the post office, I worry that I’ll miss mail. I have nightmares about important letters bouncing from Virginia to NH to SC and back to Virginia and never finding me.
Some people might not care. I do. Mail is a big deal to me. I love mail, love the anticipation of checking the box every day, love the promise that every mail day brings. Will I get a letter, that most anachronistic of pleasures? Will I have an acceptance from Tin House waiting for me when I look inside? Will a new book arrive? A gift?
My relatives have always been wonderful letter writers. My great-grandfather Bob was particularly prolific in his correspondence with me. We wrote back and forth for years, and I’ve kept many of those letters, the last written just a few weeks before his death at 99 years old. I pull them out of my box of treasures every now and then and reread them, remembering his wry sense of humor and his stubborn determination to stay independent as long as possible.
My mother still writes lovely personal notes to everyone she knows. She doesn’t own a computer, doesn’t email or text. She shows people how much she cares by carefully choosing cards and taking the time to cover them with loving thoughts in her elegant handwriting.
I remember the thrill I’d get as a child when a letter would come from one of my aunts. My mother has three sisters, and they all made me feel grown-up and special when they wrote. It makes me sad that kids don’t often get letters like that anymore. So I’ve decided that once a week I’ll write a child or an elderly person a note, just to let someone know he or she is too special for a mere email. I do worry, though, that my efforts may be wasted when people receive letters from me they can’t decipher. After years of typing, my handwriting, which was never very good, has deteriorated to a blur of lines and scribbles that look like something a monkey might do if he got hold of a pen. It’s gonna take a great deal of effort to make those notes legible.
And of course I’ll keep sending out submissions to those journals that still want submissions sent via the US Postal Service. Then I’ll watch the mailbox every day hoping that I put the right address on my self-addressed envelope so that the acceptance letter can find me.