Thursday, January 26, 2012

Letter Box

I did some much needed early Spring cleaning this week and came across a tattered and worn cardboard box, you know the kind you store your income taxes in. Tucked into the bottom of my closet, covered with a stack of extra blankets this box has seen the inside of many master bedroom closets. With each move and unpacking, this box has followed me for nearly two decades. Of course, two decades ago it was just a small shoe box. Somewhere around 30 I adopted a larger, sturdier box.

Knowing that with the tight quarters our new house has, I decided to transfer the contents of the old box into an even sturdier plastic storage container. I had an extra one left over from Christmas (I repacked all of our Christmas decorations in new boxes this year since we have to store them outside) so while I was cleaning I took an hour to go through the old box before moving the contents to a new home.

I opened the cover of the box and smiled at all the greeting cards and letters that date back from the time when I was in middle school. Graduation cards, birth announcements, Christmas cards and letters from friends I’ve not seen or heard of in years all stacked in messy piles within the box.

Memories. Tangible memories from years past.

So many cards from family members I can’t even list them all! Hundreds of cards I imagine, though I have never counted them and only three birthday cards bare my grandmother’s signature. I’m sure I got more from her, she saw fifteen of my birthdays, but for some reason only those three made it into the box.

I worked for a semester before I started college and I have letters from Bridget telling me what a strange new world college was. Cards and letters from Cindy, a friend that I regret not keeping in touch with, telling me about her wild dating adventures. Birthday cards from Heather, hand made on her computer. I still have a Bob Ross inspired painted she made me hanging in my bedroom.

Each year new cards get reverently placed on top of the pile, birthday and Christmas cards mostly, but occasionally a letter or a “Thinking of you” card.

As I was going through, I remembered another box filled with just letters. This one though is just a small cardboard photo storage box – like a shoebox, that sits on a shelf in my Craftway. This one too has been through a number of moves and always gets placed where I have easy access to it. A few precious letters from my husband, a handful from a high school friend, and all the letters from my very oldest friend, Ericka, and my closest friend, Sara, all tied together with ribbons, each bundle from a different person.


Sara wrote to me while she was in Japan. Although she was not about to write everyday to mimic our daily conversations, she wrote long, detailed letters. Every time a thick letter was shoved though my mail slot, I would start tearing up even before I opened it because I missed her so much. Her letters are precise, thoughtful and insightful observations about Japanese culture, her loves and complaints about work and the new foods she was discovering. She writes so much like she talks and thinks, that it was easy to imagine her sitting next to me telling me about her experiences. Little details that I’m sure I would forget she spins into vibrant vivid descriptions like the story-teller she is.

Ericka’s letters have come at random intervals since just before high school graduation. Each time I get a letter from her I let out a “squee” of joy. Envelopes are decorated with stickers and drawings or pictures that she cut out of magazines and glued on. Her letters are short and poignant detailing her life and asking about the girls. Occasionally a mention of some silly thing we did as kids gets tossed in: concoctions, secret codes, Cabbage Patch Kids, so many shared memories. I can hear her voice in each letter and each one brings with it a bevy of happy memories.

My new 27 quart plastic box for letters gives me some extra space. At 75% capacity, I think I have another five or ten years to fill it up. I look forward to the day when I will need to move up to a bigger box. Letters are a tangible, permanent connection. I might not keep in touch with people like I should but trust me when I say, each card, each postcard, each letter means something and gets tucked away. Writing letters is so personal you can’t help but feel special when you get one. An unexpected letter from a friend is like sunshine, rainbows and unicorns exploding out of the mailbox.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to write.


  1. Letters, yay! I've been terrible about writing letters in 2010 and 2011. I'm hoping to write more in 2012, once I get addresses sorted and organized again! I've still got all the cards and letters you sent me too. :)

    1. It's one of my 12 for 2012! I've got the stamps, the stationary and some hand-stamped cards all set to go!