Greatest Hits of Letterwriting

Do you hate those photocopied family letters tucked inside holiday cards as much as I do? Probably not. They’re not as bad as the preprinted family photo posed in November with bland general greetings and no signature. But a simple card with a handwritten sentence or two is best for me.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Now is the time for those “Greatest Hits of 2020” family letters to go out. Fill them with all the news of the days and weeks. “Ward is working from home and spends all his time at the computer, except when dispensing anodyne family advice. June just canned 24 jars of loquat preserves, a family record. Wally now has a whopping 673 Instagram followers and the Beaver just started shaving.”

Seriously, now is the time to reconnect. Why wait? You’ve got the time. Email is cheap and easy with almost unlimited reach. Start those conversations.

As an occasional historian, I have read century-old postcards and letters meant simply to connect writer and recipient, and they offer a brief reassurance of humdrum life. Many of them are unintentionally fascinating, adding insight and depth to any stereotype of their eras.

No one can know what the future holds, but we all can tell the stories of recent past. Share those generously with family and friends as milestones to laugh about on the other side of this. They — and future historians — will thank you.


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