Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Exercise in Letter Writing

Not so very long ago, we were known to anxiously watch the lane for the mailman, as it almost always was the mailman.
My own Great Grandfather was one. Grandpa Ambrose Brown. He delivered the mail on horseback. I never knew him, except from his daughter's telling of his life, but because of that, I feel as though I did.
As a teenager, I fairly haunted our mailbox while my future husband {although I didn't know that for a few years, yet} was in a Summer exchange program in Germany. It was a very long two, maybe three weeks before I received my first letter from him . . . International Airmail . . . {maybe it was called Overseas} in those delicate onion skin airmail envelopes . . . with red, white and blue marks around the edges.

{Later, I heard that our mailman had celebrated at the Post Office while he sorted mail. He had exclaimed, "Here it is! She's got her letter! She's got her letter!"}

It was the first of many.

I kept those missives . . . wrapped ever so tenderly . . . in a handkerchief . . . bound with ribbon, and stowed safely under my bed pillow. I would slip my hand underneath and finger the letters while I fell into slumber each night . . . feeling the nearness of the fragile paper that his hands had touched.

Selena {Apron Thrift Girl} had wistful pen pal memories of her own. Inspired by an article in Country Living Magazine, she designed a pen pal swap for this month, April, which I wasn't previously aware . . . has been deemed National Letter Writing Month.

With the enticing parameters of writing our letters on paper from a magazine or perhaps a catalog . . . using a recycled envelope, too . . . she intrigued me, and this . . . what you see here . . . is the result of my efforts.

I was assigned a pen pal across the entire country. We were instructed to read our pen pal's blogs, which really are letters of a sort . . . they are just letters to the world . . . don't you think?

I discovered from Jenny's blog, that she is a writer . . . that we had both recently {sort of recently in my case, pretty recently in her's} visited the British Isles . . . that we were both battling a horrible cough, {I was still awfully sick . . . respiratory things always take an asthmatic to their knees.}, we both love to read.
Entertaining myself online, I had that same day viewed the most wonderful vintage photo collection at this blog. Those photos just spoke to me . . . as they did most of her readers . . . particularly the picnic photos {me, personally} . . . as I was longing to be outdoors, hiking along my beloved river. {Check her newer post, too . . . she discovered more information.}

So, that is where I began. . . it was my prompt, my jumping off place . . . my inspiration, all of it . . . and so I wrote . . . I wrote a fictional letter, to my fictional dear, dear friend, whom I am sorely missing while confined to a hospital, in some unknown era, to regain my health.

I can not tell you how much I have enjoyed this project! It transported to me to another place and another time . . . and I have pestered anyone who will listen to me {or not}, into hearing all about what I was up to.

I reused a beautiful portrait page from the June 1999 Victoria Magazine. I painted out all of the words on both sides, distressed and stamped the paper, added old gold French thread . . . sewed on a few old, old buttons, and finished with a butterfly . . . a copy of Victorian scrap, really. {I can't bring myself to use the really, truly old stuff . . . but a copy is just as beautiful . . .} Then, as instructed, I hand wrote the 'letter'.
The envelope received a similar treatment, but I didn't photograph it . . . I included pressed violets, the very ones that were mentioned in the letter, and a leaf that I collected and pressed last Autumn from the grounds of Princeton Seminary, where my son is attending.

The last step was to convince the woman at the post office counter to use real stamps and hand cancel my letter. Mission accomplished . . . now I'll just wait anxiously . . . till I receive a letter from my pen pal.

{If you click on the first photo it will enlarge it enough to read quite well.}

Note to Jenny: My husband is a real Captain . . . of the firefighter persuasion . . . and I have fully recovered . . . I hope you have, too.

~ Much Love, Debbi

P.S. This sort of missive must have a post script, don't you think? I apologize for the link to the swap . . . I have written to inquire about it, but there has been no reply, and no other posts that I know of. There probably are some, but I don't kow where to find them. My own penpal, I knew, was very likely unable to complete the swap, and I was not concerned . . . but as for the link, I can't tell you what happened.
. . . ah well . . . it was always that way with letters, wasn't it? :)

Want to be part of a Letter Exchange?
~addendum July 2, 2010~
HellOOooo! Are you still there? I need to talk to you about something! . . . I plan to host a letter exchange beginning in March 2011, scheduled to come to completion in time for and coincide with April, National Letter Writing Month. If you would like to be part of it, leave a comment on this post. Make certain that you leave a way for me to reach you, and I will contact you when it's time, early next Spring! I hope you will! Leaving a comment at this time, is in no way a commitment, just noted interest. Thank you! See you in the Spring!


  1. i think she will be thrilled. What a wonderful project and I love everything you did. Again I am so happy that our girl's adventures had a part in this.

    I have my own post office connection. My mom was a Postmaster In my tiny home town where EVERYONE had a p.o. box and there wasn't any home delivery. Everyone had to come to the post office to get their mail... the post office was in our front yard.

    By the way she hated the term Post Mistress... she always said that she definitely wasn't the mistress of the post.

    Love what you did to the dress form in the next post. I love dress forms. xo Joan@anythinggoeshere

    P.S. Thanks for the links to my posts so more people can see these great women.

  2. The letter came yesterday! (I got it today because I was out of town till this afternoon). Love it! I am still working on mine...look for it soon!

  3. Debbi, I'm in love...
    Would you write me a beautiful letter like that? You can write anything you want, fiction or non-fiction ;)
    Seriously girl...this is simply gorgeous! GORGEOUS!
    You make me want to sit with an ink pen and just jot thoughts, wishes, dreams...see what you've done? Love it! ;)
    Beautiful post!

  4. How very cool! I love letters! And these are so beautiful!!! How fun! Very old fashioned to use what you have for paper and envelopes!!
    Hugs, Lisa

  5. What an inspirational idea. I used to write many, many more letters in the days prior to email. Thank you so, so much for your words of encouragement on my blog last week when you were encouraging me to keep writing. I appreciate it!

  6. This was such a beautiful post! My hubby is a mailman!! LOL!!
    I did get my dress form at a flea market but not the one I run....another church one though. It was $1.00!! I have my wedding dress on that one. I also have a wicker one and I paid $25 for that one at an antique store. I know they are hard to find so that is why I paid that much.
    Thanks for stopping by to visit me!

  7. Bonjour Debbie,
    WHat a lovely idea and your letter was just beautiful - what a treat to receive it in the mail. I love writing letters too, so much better than all the email that has taken their place! THank you for coming by and following along. I'll become a follower and will be back soon.
    Have a happy week,