by Ellen Neumann
Sullivan County, New York –
13th December 2011.
My first experience with the written word was one of excitement and wonder. My Nana Margaret was an Irish-American NY City girl. She was transplanted to Sullivan County, NY when she married a land rich, cash poor, country farmer [my Pop, Tom Dillon] in 1919. She wrote letters weekly and faithfully to her far away siblings, cousins, aunts and friends. Those letters were her lifeline to the ones she loved dearly and forever. Her penmanship [does anyone even remember what THAT means?] was gentle, small and flowing; her words warm, newsy and welcomed by those who received and coveted her letters. Each day she would watch for the mailman to come, knowing that someone had written a letter to her in return. She treasured each and every one of those letters, read and reread them, smiling and sometimes shedding a silent tear. Those letters were wonderful and personal. They tightened the ties that bound her to her loved ones. They helped her to endure a life that was sometimes difficult and lonely. Nana’s letters were my first window to the big world “out there”.
As a child I decided that I would like to write and receive letters myself. I started by writing to my city relations, knowing they would answer me for sure. And they did! Little by little I expanded my horizons by adding a “pen pal”, a girl whose name and address I got from my 6th grade teacher [Sr. William Eugene]. My “pal” was named Paula and she lived in Florida. Through our letters we learned about each others’ lives, families, hopes and dreams. Florida seemed so far away yet her letters brought it closer and made it real. It was wonderful, magical and fun. I learned one could make things come to life by writing them in a letter, an epiphany! I also learned that one had to keep up her end of the communication in order to receive the ”Holy Grail” which was of course a letter in return.
As a young wife and working mother, I continued my love affair with pen, paper and ink. I discovered the wonderful world of greeting cards, a way to continue my quest for written communication. A card is a beautiful thing. I could buy them for all occasions, adding a small note or enclosing a long letter and reap the reward of getting many in return. I could express myself with tons of underlines and exclamation points. I could cross stuff out if I wanted to and create the occasional little drawing to make my point. Oh How I Love To Send and Receive Mail! Nothing quite compares to it, certainly not the emails and texts that have become a staple for most of us in the fast paced whirlwind cyber world we live in.
I love the internet with its capabilities and its wonders, truly I do. It has opened avenues to me that I never dreamed existed. Yet emails do not and never will replace the thrill of watching the mailman put a letter in my mailbox. The colorful stamp from a foreign land or from just around the corner; opening my letter to see “Dear Ellen” written across the top in a gentle, small and flowing handwriting; these things are an utter joy to me! I treasure each and every little note, card or letter that I have ever received. I feel proud of the fact that I have carried on my Nan’s tradition of communication through the written word. Smiles from heaven, I can feel them…
Oh! Here comes the mailman! Wonder how many Christmas cards he has for me today? Let’s go see…………….
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