Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Lost Art of Love Letter Writing

'You say that you are feeling my absence very much, and your only comfort when I am not there is to hold my writings in your hand and often put them in my place by your side. I like to think that you miss me and find relief in this sort of consolation. I, too, am always reading your letters, and returning to them again and again as if they were new to me -- but this only fans the fire of my longing for you. If your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company; do write as often as you can, although you give me pleasure mingled with pain.' - Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, 100 AD
Occasionally, when I go to visit my Nonno, he talks about Nanna.  They were married for over 50 years, and he misses her incredibly.  Up on his bedroom wall, he has put hundreds of photos - a collage of their life together - and above it, on the first shelf, is the first love letter she ever wrote him.

My grandparents met at an Italian dance club in London, where the two of them only ever went twice.  The first time, they ended up dancing all night (Nonno had asked her to dance when she was trying to avoid some fairly amorous youth) and she wrote her address down for him, so he could write.

The next day he discovered that her handwriting was illegible - she'd written it down in the dark of the club - and unfortunately had to leave for Leicester where he was working for the next three months.

On returning to London, a friend of his managed to persuade him to go out to the same club as before, and there was my grandmother.  Feisty as ever, she walked over and demanded an explanation, and laughed when he showed her the illegible address - still in his wallet.

When she gave him her address again - this time incredibly clear - he wrote three letters to her in quick succession, each one arriving two days after the previous before she replied.

Sitting there, listening to Nonno translate her first letter for me (they wrote in Italian and my Italian is dodgy at best), it made me consider why we don't write anymore.  I used to write letters to one of my best friends when we were 14 - we must have exchanged a couple of hundred over the years - but these days it's so much easier to Facebook or text.

Moreloveletters.com disputes this.  They explain:

We’re going to tell you that we write and mail love letters, handwritten love letters, to strangers in need all over the world. We’re going to invite you to request a love letter for someone in your life who needs one. And we’re going to insist that you step out of your own shoes of Comfort & join us. You are going to think we are a bit crazy. A tad loopy. But you’ve been looking for a website that leaks love all this time… so we aren’t worried you’ll leave us.

I personally love it.  The idea that there are people out there who will write to those who need it, to those who are sad, to those whom we love ourselves but don't have the words to express it.

So write a love letter of your own.  Or go look at others', because they'll make you smile and realise that you really aren't alone.

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