This is the second in a six-post series on letter writing, inspired by an article in the Orange County Register’s Parade magazine (March 15, 2015), titled Letters That Changed Our World by Liz Welch.
Love letters…. what gal (and maybe guy) doesn’t sigh when thinking of (or re-reading) love letters they’ve received? These tender missives are usually full of sweet-talk and intimate “pet” names that would never be voiced aloud in public. They often recall pleasurable times together and eagerly anticipate future meetings.
Love letters sometimes become records of relationships that are separated by miles or time. I’m thinking of soldiers and their sweethearts or wives, or perhaps students attending different colleges.
Today’s long-distance relationships are kept alive by emails, texts, and Skype. Those are wonderful and fast, and suit the times, but older generations cherish the stacks of letters they’ve tied with ribbons and carefully stashed in shoe boxes. These are treasures that, when gently opened and slowly re-read on a rainy, wistful kind of day, can bring a smile or a heart flutter.
Liz Welch wrote in the Parade Magazine article about Atlanta-based Hannah Brencher who started https://moreloveletters.squarespace.com/ an online movement to inspire more letter-writing (of ALL kinds, not just the mushy ones). “My generation thinks they don’t have time for it,” Brencher says, “but when they actually sit down and write a letter, they realize how meaningful it is.”
Brencher was moved to start the website, when – feeling lost and alone after relocating to Manhattan – she saw an older woman on the subway who looked like she felt the same way. “I decided to write her a letter right there, and left it on the subway car with the inscription – ‘If you find this letter, it’s for you.'” The simple act made her feel better and she started leaving notes everywhere. This led to a blog post offering letters to anyone interested. The next morning, she had 400 requests!”
Her new memoir, If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers (Howard, 2015 tells her story.
DEAR JOHN…. Oh those dreaded “break up” letters of old! According to World Wide Words; Investigating the English language across the globe, ‘Dear John’ letters seem to have been invented by Americans during the Second World War. At that time, thousands of US servicemen were stationed overseas for long periods, and many of them found that absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder.
The letters were conventionally from a woman to a boyfriend or husband saying that all is over between them, usually because the woman had found someone else.
This example is from a letter in the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY in August, 1945…. “Dear John,” the letter began, “I have found someone else whom I think the world of. I think the only way out is for us to get a divorce.” Talk about a sucker punch for some poor soldier in a fox hole.
But why “Dear John”? Probably because John was a common generic name for a man then. (Also, think of John Doe for an unknown party to a legal action.) A recent phrase that reflects today’s sexual equality is a “Dear Jane” letter (or more likely a quickie email or text message. Sooo easy to whip off).
Have YOU ever received love letters? Did you save them to re-read again? Do you WISH you’d saved them?
Have you ever left a note on a subway or park bench or counter in a restaurant restroom? Or in a bottle tossed into the ocean?
How about an “un-love” letter. Has a cruel Dear John or Dear Jane letter ever arrived in your mailbox or inbox?
Love to hear your experiences in the comments below or in an email to me at — Jackiehouchin@aol.com . I want to include them (or excerpts from them) in the final post in this series.