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Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

Years ago when I was in the Fats Waller Revue, Ain't Misbehavin', as, I believe, one of the skinniest embodiments of the Ken Page role on record, I enjoyed performing the classic, "Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." The song seemed to be both joyful and melancholy—a perfect expression that could be perceived as about a writer who might be flirting with a new love or deeply missing one who was out of reach. I recall that my empathy with that song was based on one inescapable theme—connection. Before the age of the phone, email, text messaging, skype and twitter, I recalled that receiving a letter in the mail provided more joy to me than most anything else in the world.

The other night...or day (as it appears to run all of the time now) I was watching Downton Abbey and was reminded of the importance we used to place on letters. Two wedded characters, the husband in jail, the wife free and missing him, became emotionally overwhelmed because, after months of having their writings to each other withheld, the prison had decided to forward the imprisoned husband's numerous letters on to his Mrs. Upon receiving the thick handful of envelopes, the woman hugged them to her breast as dearly as if she were caressing her husband. Tears filled her eyes and mine as the scene played out.

This vignette prompted me to consider how much of our communications today—our connections—are made electronically; by email, text, tweet, instant message, or Skype. All wonderful advances of the modern age, these modes of contact have arguably become as important or infamous as those impassioned letters of love or libel our parents and grandparents might have secured weddings or feuds over many decades ago. How much value is given today to a historical document we confirm as containing the signature of Washington or Lincoln? How much value or weight would you or do you give to a letter handwritten to you by your first love, favorite teacher, deceased parent?

Think about writing a letter to someone you care about today. It can be as simple as a scrap of paper folded and stuffed in a standard Hallmark card. Even in our quick, electronic world, allow someone to cherish your horrible penmanship as you affectionately reach out by paper and snail mail to say, "Hey homey, just wanted to touch base. Peace out." That small effort may be appreciated and cherished forever.

Chris Haley - 2/13/2013 12:10 AM

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