I decided to reread all those letters, and the experience has turned out to be bitter-sweet. I am reminded how I once had friends with whom I could write not only about my daily goings-on but also about literature and ideas. My friends described their environs--Denham Springs, Louisiana; Billings, Montana; Pensacola, Florida; Butterfield Lake, Minnesota; Huntsville, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Wichita, Kansas; Crescent City, California--as I described mine in every move: Bryan, TX; Cloquet, MN; Waverly Hall, GA; Belton, TX; Atlanta, GA; Abita Springs, LA. Over the years, though, the letters grew fewer in number as the moves, family duties, and age pulled us further apart. And e-mail took over the slower and more thoughtful pace of letter-writing.
But because we took the time to write engagingly, the letters read like an epistolary novel, a novel of my life intersecting with words the lives of my friends. We might have lived far apart, but we shared intimate details of our experiences.
I miss those exchanges. Facebook does not compensate for a well-written letter of 5-6 pages, single-spaced. We might not have seen each other for years, but words on a page created an intimacy a post on Facebook is unable to duplicate.
Reading these letters, I am thankful for the record--all those details of my children's lives I described as a young mother to my friends I had forgotten in the whirl of daily living, working, and moving from state to state--but I also mourn the loss of those connections over time. I seem to have moved one state too far, out even past my past, beyond friends and family, into the unknown of approaching old age.
Technology may have shrunk the world, but it has nearly destroyed the intimacy and art of letter writing.