Letters of Note is an extraordinary site, publishing transcripts and facsimiles of fascinating correspondence.
There’s a huge range. The most popular letter ever on the site is this one from a former slave to his former master. The most recent is this beautiful letter from Fiona Apple, written just last week, to her fans in South America, explaining that she couldn’t come on tour because her beloved dog was dying.
Nicholas said the other night he wondered if we were losing the art of letter-writing. He’s too young to have written letters before the tech revolution. I got my first email account when I was 18 (I’m still a spring chicken too, right?) but was a prolific letter-writer through my teens and still enjoy it now, very occasionally.
It’s pretty hard to regain a letter-writing pace of communication when you have to wilfully ignore your email account, Facebook profile and the thirteen other messaging systems on your phone or laptop. A friend in the UK and I tried it a few years ago, and the letters were wonderful, but we didn’t do brilliantly at actually keeping the snail mail correspondence going.
Perhaps today’s featured correspondence on Letters of Note could inspire some letter-writing to someone who doesn’t use email: your toddler.
To inspire you, here’s some of a letter from a father in space, Jerry Linengar, to his 14-month-old son. Details at Letters of Note.
23 January 1997
I decided before this flight that I was going to be a good father and write to you every day. This is my first attempt at that.
I realize that you are only one year old, and although I exaggerate your talents like any proud father would, I don’t think that you can quite read this yet. No problem. When you can, you will feel good knowing that your father loves you.
Space flight is a dangerous business. I used to be pretty cavalier about it. But just before this launch, I started questioning what I was about to do. You see, I have so, so much to lose now. You and your mother.
Space is a frontier. And I am out here exploring. For five months! What a privilege!
But, I sure do miss you. I want most of all to see you come stumbling around the corner, bellow out your big laugh when I give my “surprised to see you” look, and then watch you stumble back out of the room to repeat the same to Mommy in the other room. You are the best son in the world, John.
You know, although I am up here floating above Earth, I am still an Earthling. I feel the pain of separation, the pride of a father, and the loneliness of a husband away from his wife like an Earthling. And maybe even a bit more acutely.
Good night, my son. I’ll be watching over you.
I’ve written one long letter to SBJ so far, a few months ago. What about you?
Do you write to your (illiterate) children, intending them to read the letters when they’re older? Do you write to your literate children now? Did your parents write to you? I’m fascinated in your answers!