In today’s world of texting, tweeting, instant messaging and email has love-letter writing become a lost art, or has it morphed into something entirely, and unrecognizably, different?
Two days ago I was in our backyard warehouse with Ed, and while he was moving stuff around I came across a white laundry basket full of books that had been in a storage unit Ed recently won at an auction. It was obvious that someone had packed the books in haste, as most them were just thrown into a jumbled pile, pages bent and bindings twisting out of shape. Being the book lover I am I was mortified! I needed to rescue these poor abused books ASAP. I began to stack them when Ed called me away to help him move a table. When he saw what I was doing he said “if you don’t want them they’re going in the trash.” Ed doesn’t share in my appreciation of books–they take up too much space.
Yesterday morning Ed came through the kitchen door and deposited the basket of books on the floor with a thud, followed by “go through these or I’m throwing them out.” I hate being pressured like that, but I knew he was serious, so I began thumbing through the books one by one, making a “keep” pile and a “give away” pile. Many of the books were of no interest to me, or in really poor shape, so by the time I got to a 1971 Sociology textbook I was losing interest and only half-heartedly thumbing through them. Then, something fell from the pages onto the floor.
It was a yellowing, legal-sized envelope with two 8-cent Eisenhower stamps postmarked April 7, 1972. The sender was a sailor and the address read “USS BORDELON (DD-881) and sent from New York, NY. The recipient was a woman here in Charleston, SC. I was immediately intrigued and even said “Oh! Cool!” out-loud to myself. Inside the envelope were two folded pieces of darkening, yellow-lined paper. What struck me first when unfolding the paper was the legibility of the dark-black, neat, script hand. There was no date, just “Tuesday” written on the top line, right side. It started out with “Dear Sweetheart” and right then and there I knew I was about to read something special, written from the heart.
The last names of the sender and recipient were different, so I assumed these two were lovers, and not a married couple. He starts off by saying how the ship finally left Charleston at six o’clock that morning, and then he lamented over having to cut their night together short to be back on the ship on time. His yearning was palpable. The writing spanned a time period of two days because, as he explained, he had to write a little bit here and there whenever he could find the time. The total length of the letter was two and a half pages, with only one word crossed out–“It seems awfully sad to finally be together (together crossed out) in love and not be allowed to be together.” This was the tone of the entire letter–how in love he was with her and how he hated being apart from her. It was lovely. It was respectful. It was from the heart. There was nothing sexually explicit, no condescending tone, no “you’re my bitch” declarations like you see so many “males” (not men IMHO) of our current generation tweeting to their girlfriends. This letter was well-written, grammatically correct, and had no spelling errors. It was like a breath of fresh air, and I felt privileged to read it. It also made me a bit sad because it made it so obvious that nobody seems to write this way anymore. I found myself thinking “what’s happened to our society in the last 42 years since this letter was written?” Seriously. What HAPPENED to respect and romance? Are true ladies and gentlemen really that rare a thing anymore?
Where is this couple now? They’d most likely be in their mid-sixties now, since she was a college student in 1972. I’m going to try to find them, and if I do find him or her I’ll have to see how comfortable I feel about approaching them to return this letter. They may not even be a couple anymore. They may be dead. They may not be interested in having the letter returned to them. Who knows?
I’ll post my progress. Wish me luck.