Love is tactile. You may think that an obvious statement … however, I’m referring to something else. Something beautiful that is on the verge of going extinct.
Love Letters. Real love letters.
When I graduated many (many) years ago, a local vendor gave each student a small cedar keepsake box (a small school in a small town). I have that box, and nestled inside is a collection of love letters from my first big romance. I’ve kept that box for [many years], lugging it around with other stuff from one apartment to the next, one state to the next, one storage unit to the next.
Lately, I’ve been having an onrush of purging. It’s gone in stages, the first layer being the obvious junk I picked up when my rooms and shelves needed to be filled, after my extended travels & gypsy adventures finally ended. I called the next phase the sentimental purge, allowing myself to get rid of concert t-shirts and stuffed animals (gifts) and stacks of photos from back in the day when you had film developed and kept them all (hundreds).
But still the cedar box remained – probably opened only a few times in quite a few decades. During the most recent round of purging, I stopped and contemplated if it was time for it to go.
Now here is the experience that many generations will miss out on. Opening an old box, inhaling the smell of maybe a faded prom corsage, maybe a scatter of dried petals, maybe cedar or old perfume. There might be a ribbon tied in a bow by a young girl, well remembered but perhaps a bit lost in time’s shadows. The paper itself has achieved a patina that is almost like satin, smoothed by years and experiences and other loves that have all come and gone.
The very act of opening an envelope still carries a frisson of expectation, very different from pushing a button to open an email or an instant message. As I pull the letter out, my heart flutters again, seeing familiar handwriting, recalling how I’d notice if there had been one page or an exciting several pages, waiting for me to discover what is and what is next as each line is revealed.
Let us consider for a moment the intimacy of handwriting … the thought and time and effort for each sentence, the mystery of a crossed out word now and then … what could he have been thinking then and why did he change his mind?
There is nothing that can ever replace the seep of memory from the letter I am holding in my hand, through my skin, racing in goosebumps up my arms and straight to my heart. There will always be skilled wordsmiths, but a computer will never fit in a cedar box.