The Working Title Is…Pen To Paper: A Timeless Treasure

I had an experience this weekend that served as a virtual slap in the face and left me asking, “How did you let yourself get so sucked in to the trappings of technology?”

An upgrade became available on our cellular phone plan, and for the first time ever, I jumped on it before one of my kids could scoop it up.

(Sorry girls. Merry Christmas to me.)

As I was preparing to transfer data from the old phone to the new, I was prompted to select any or all contacts, photos, or videos I wanted moved.

Wait…would this mean that a favorite text that I have not deleted for more than four years would not appear on my new phone? I had to do something to make sure the message would not be lost forever.  So, I went to the old phone, opened the text, took a screenshot, emailed it to myself, uploaded it to iPhoto, saved it to a flash drive, burned it to a CD and printed out a hard copy, just to be safe.

Something tells me Josephine never had to expend that much effort to safeguard a message from Napoleon, and she was in the middle of a Revolution far scarier than my coup d’état of the next cell upgrade.

I went to add the paper to my memory box, and that’s when the ridiculousness of it all hit me.   A printout just looked silly among handwritten letters from my mom, my best friend since sixth grade, my college boyfriend and my husband. (Same guy, btw.) I picked up the letters one by one, and the emotion emanating from the pen-stroked cursive lines brought me to tears. One of my mom’s notes had a round stain from a coffee cup in the corner. I could immediately picture her with a cup of Sanka at our kitchen table writing the letter that included her cartoonish depiction of my brother’s new haircut.

I pulled out a bunch of Blue Mountain Art cards from my best friend who was forever attempting to build my confidence and encourage my dreams through notes nestled in between pastel beach scenes and poetry. I could see from the large inkblot at the end of one sentence that her pen paused there for awhile. I couldn’t help but wonder if that meant Stephanie was making a definitive point or simply hesitating before writing the next sentence, not sure of how much truth I could tolerate.

Putting pen to paper has become a lost art, and as a result, we are losing the “timeless treasure” aspect of personal communication. No font, no matter what the point size or use of italics, can convey the added dimension of emotion that is carried by the hand-written word. Not Papyrus. Not Comic Sans. Not even Lucida Calligraphy.

I am patiently waiting to get my hands on a family treasure that will demonstrate this reality in a manner that is truly historical, capturing the mundane to the profound.

My husband’s aunt has been given the chance to read letters her Uncle Sarsfield wrote to his wife during World War II. Her cousin has shared that, at a minimum, they wrote to each other three times a week between 1942 and 1945. Aunt Helen tells me she is now reading fall, 1944 when Sars’ outfit was working its way through the fields of France, living in foxholes and abandoned homes with holes in the roofs.

She shared a few letters with me, and I feel as though I’ve been transported through time. His penmanship is exquisite. His salutation, “Hello My Dearest,” melts my heart. His time/date stamp of “Sept. 8, 1944, 11am, Somewhere in France” sets the stage and puts you in his mindset as he describes his rain soaked foxhole.

You’d think one letter was a movie script, but it’s not. It’s a piece of paper that was once blank until beloved Uncle Sarsfield wrote in the top right-hand corner, “Tuesday, June 6, 1944.”

Can you imagine? Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

“This is the eventful day that we and the rest of the world have been waiting and planning for….no great show of emotion, the job has started and we hope to finish it in the quickest time possible.”

To think, he held this exact piece of paper in his hands on D-Day. To think of the distance this piece of paper traveled until it reached his “dearest.” And to think of the time she spent worrying before, during and after it reached her.

Regardless of how much emotion an author pours into a text, I don’t think it will ever be able to translate across generations like a hand-written note does.

But the only way I will know for sure is if I continue to put pen to paper and share with my loved ones what I hold in my heart…from the mundane to the profound.


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