By Lisa Vogt
Call me a romantic, but there’s something special about hand-written notes. Maybe it’s because it has become such a rarity to put pen to paper anymore.
Remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you received a birthday card in the mail? It’s likely you recognized the handwriting on the envelope and knew who the card was from before tearing it open. Below the printed sentiment inside would be a hand-written note expressing wishes for you to have a special day. Or at the very least, there’d be a jovial closing followed by a signature. The message was sincere, the connection personal.
I worry that my kids, with all of today’s technological influences are missing out on a form of creative expression that truly humanizes us. Hand-written notes, like old family photographs, make our deceased relatives real people with real life stories. Their decisions, good or bad, and their way of living directly influenced who we are and where we are now. It’s conceivable that the impact of their lives will reach well into the future.
On the top shelf in my closet is a plastic keep box. It’s filled with silly little things I treasure. There are love notes Joe wrote to me when we were newlyweds and he had to travel for work. I have a hand-made coupon book decorated with flowers from my oldest daughter. It’s filled with vouchers for kisses, hugs, movie dates, and other sweet promises. There’s a rough pencil drawing on a rolled piece of graph paper. It’s a map of a dream farm with a barn, fencing and of course a horse. On the bottom corner my younger daughter, the artist and horse lover, signed her name.
Imagine a future without that human element. Handwriting is as unique and beautiful as the individual.
I’ve enjoyed watching my kids grow up through their penmanship on pre-school, elementary, middle and high school assignments stashed in my keep box. I’ve even gone so far as to save their letters to Santa. It’s been fun to see their spelling improve and their vocabulary expand year after year. The Santa letters are also mirrors that echo their wonderful individuality and their headstrong personalities. One daughter has always been fashion conscious including trending clothes, jewelry and makeup on her list. While her sister has pleaded with Santa to bring her a horse consistently, every year since she could hold a crayon.
Those notes, letters and drawings are a testament to my kids’ lifelong dreams and ambitions. I wouldn’t trade them, the letters or the kids, for anything.
Leave a Legacy
Tucked in between cook books, inside my kitchen cabinet is a curled manila folder stuffed with wrinkled, oil stained slips of paper. To the unknowing observer the oddly sized, discolored papers look like worthless scraps that should have been thrown away long ago. But to me, the folder’s messy contents are priceless.
Written on those tattered, creased bits of paper are favorite family recipes that have been passed down from generations. But the real gems are the handwritten recipes given to me by my mother and my mother-in-law, both of whom sadly have passed away. Beyond the obvious regional and ethnic origin of the dishes, it’s easy to tell who gave me the different recipes. My mother’s meticulously neat, tight handwriting featured elongated loops that steadily slanted to the right. While my mother-in-law’s curly hand writing reminds me of a lovestruck teenager’s flowing hair ribbons. She had a flourish for writing. She decorated the pages with lavish full loops and finished off her detailed instructions with plump hearts and X’s.
When my mother was alive, I took for granted that she’d always be here to write out her recipes for me. The thin sheet of paper with her handwritten recipe for Spanish Pot Roast has renewed significance now. It’s so much more than good comfort food. Holding it brings back fond childhood memories of my hardworking family. We were five busy individuals going in different directions. But we managed to pull it together and sit around the dinner table on Sundays to enjoy home cooked meals and conversation. Mom’s writing style was unique, artistic and all her own. I’d recognize her penmanship as easily as I’d recognize her voice, her smell, her warm embrace. The flimsy pages are a real piece of her I can hold on to.
My mother-in-law loved to cook; it was her creative outlet. She’d make elaborate, multi-course menus on weeknights, even though she worked a fulltime job. On special occasions, she’d extend the menu to include sweet made-from-scratch pies, delicious cookies and lighter-than-air cream puffs. When I hold those fragile handwritten recipes she gave me and follow her directions, she’s here and I don’t miss her quite so much.
I hate the thought of my kids missing out on the simple pleasure of this intimate, personal connection to my mother, my mother-in-law, and eventually me.
True, it’s easier to communicate with a clipped text, or by cutting and pasting someone else’s thoughts, or by sharing a picture rather than pulling out a pen. But we can help younger generations appreciate the value of writing things down on paper. Because personalized notes transcend time. They connect the past, the present, and the future.
Handwritten notes may be a thing of the past, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Slow down for just a minute. Write a quick note. Let someone you care about know they’re special in a way that doesn’t momentarily light up a screen, but lasts forever.
For our kids’ sake, let’s keep it alive.
All the best!
What fond memories does a specific handwritten letter trigger for you?
What’s in your keep box?