The big bone of contention in our wedding planning nearly 18 years ago centered on our invitations. My soon to be groom and I thought response cards were an absolute must. It was a no-brainer for us to include them, as they would make it easy for our invitees to tell us if they would attend or not. My mother, the CEO of the entire wedding operation thought otherwise.
“A person should know to take out a piece of paper and write us a note. ”
In the end, my mother won out. She was footing the bill, and so eventually we just gave up the fight. There was also a part of me that deep down knew she was right. She almost always was. Although not convenient and in the modern era most unconventional, not including a response card in an invitation and having a “person” take out a piece of paper and write a thoughtful handwritten note to my parents on the occasion of my wedding to my groom was an elegant, beautiful and meaningful thing to do.
I can’t imagine what my mother would think of the demise of the art of the handwritten note, which seems to be inevitable in the wake of so many growing methods of communication via new technologies.
Full disclosure: My groom turned husband and I included, what my mother may have considered to be a ghastly check off the box response card in our son’s Bar Mitzvah invitation last year. I have texted and emailed people a “thank you” or “thinking of you” on many occasions. I do not pretend to be Emily Post or the Queen of England. I fully understand that we now live more hectic lives than ever and have access to much quicker and easier ways to express ourselves. But, I do still believe that there is nothing like a handwritten note, and I do not want it to disappear.
There is something about the act of taking out a piece of paper (and it doesn’t have to be fancy personalized stationary or anything like that) and writing down your thoughts, good wishes, thanks or appreciation on actual paper with an actual pen. As the writer of so many of these notes, I can say that I feel better about myself when I engage in this act. Every year I write nearly 100 notes by hand to thank people for contributing to a charity event, which is incidentally in memory of my mother. I started out doing this out of respect to her and her memory and soon realized it just felt good. I could sense that it felt good to the recipients as well. They continue to show up to the event year after year and some even donate a little extra. I like to think my notes have something to with that.
I enjoy being on the receiving end of the notes too. I recently got an unexpected handwritten note from a woman I had met only once. I spent about an hour with her over coffee answering her questions about a project she was working on – one in which I had some prior knowledge. We quickly bonded, and I was more than happy to chat with her. A couple weeks later I received a lovely and heartfelt handwritten note from her thanking me for my time, wishing me all the best with future endeavors and even signing it off with an “xo” in pen. She had me at “Dear Rachel” but that sweet and most favorite of mine sign off made me smile. The note made me want to help her out again, and I certainly will if she asks. Really it just made me feel good about myself and a little bit about humankind too.
I have on several occasions received handwritten notes thanking me for my own handwritten notes. Those ones are quite impressive and so thoughtful, but I quickly put a stop to the back and forth good wishes with a text as if to say, “it’s okay, we don’t need to keep writing to each other anymore.” A part of me though wonders if perhaps I should have continued the correspondences.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams became pen pals exchanging handwritten notes over the course of a half a century. I realize there was no internet or cloud back then, but still how amazing is it to have a paper trail between two of our founding fathers, and once political rivals, in which they exchanged thoughts on government, family, philosophy, religion and so much more. I don’t think those sentiments would have flown as well via text and definitely not on a Snapchat streak or Instagram direct messages.
I still have many old letters, part of a series of correspondence between my parents, when they were just dating and were separated by 300 miles as my mother was away studying at college and my father was back at home, already a working young man.
I’ve also saved a slew of handwritten notes that friends and family members have sent to me over the years on the occasion of both happy and sad events and sometimes for a nonevent - just a note to express their feelings. I love those the most.
I have drilled in the fine art of note writing to my children employing them to write thank you notes for birthday and holiday gifts since the time they could write. Last year’s Bar Mitzvah gift thank you note writing was a challenge for sure for my son, but one I knew he was up for. He got through his list, sticking to his self ascribed five notes a night rule, until the last one had been signed, sealed and delivered. I didn’t care about his physician like handwriting (which he got from me) or the brevity of his notes. I was just happy that he wrote them.
Many years ago, my grandmother called me on the phone to tell me that she received a handwritten note from a good friend of mine thanking my grandmother for a lunch she had hosted. “She writes a lovely note,” said my grandmother about my friend. She really did and still does.
I know we are all working hard to make a difference in the world whether through our jobs, our kids, or just trying to be informed enough to understand and maybe try to solve a little piece of the problems we face. I also know that writing notes out by hand can only help us in these endeavors - even if it does just make us feel a tiny bit better about ourselves, others around us or maybe even yes, humankind.
And to be known as the writer of a lovely note, I think that’s something. I’d take it.