Keeping Alive the Lost Art of Letter Writing

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

“Do you still write letters?” my dad asked, handing me a book of stamps he had bought me.

“Definitely,” I said. “It’s kind of a lost art.”

As someone who still writes letters to friends, I love being the receiver of letters just as much as I like being the giver. As a kid, I used to love the sound of the mail truck stopping in front of my house at 2:45 p.m. each day. And I’m infatuated with this idea: sending love notes via bicycle.

A blurb in The Chicago Tribune’s Red Eye publication earlier this week read: “Want to work at a love factory? Pink — a traveling courier service for love notes — is holding an orientation at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Paul Cultural Center (1215 W. North Ave.) for volunteers interested in packaging and delivering love notes by bike. The service ends Aug. 15.”

Delivering love notes by bike — or even by foot — seems so antiquated. But really, how cool would it be to receive an actual love note by bike, or to be the person delivering it? If my career in journalism doesn’t work out, I’ll know what to do instead.

Instead of being a letter carrier, I’d be a letter keeper. I’ve got plenty of experience to qualify. I try to preserve the letters I receive, and often hope that the letters I send don’t end up in the trash. I have an entire box of handwritten letters and cards that family and friends have given me throughout the past couple of years. As I was packing for Dallas, I debated as to whether or not I should keep the cards and letters, but I couldn’t part with them; too many hours worth of handwriting and thoughtfulness to just eradicate with a toss.

I have another whole box dedicated to the art writing letters. It’s filled with fancy cards, some simple stationary and envelopes — but never quite enough. That has always been one of my pet peeves: Most of the time when you buy stationary, you only get half as many envelopes as you get sheets of stationary.

Now, if only stamps didn’t cost so much …