Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Friday, April 1, 2011

Communication Gone Awry

The days of letter-writing have all but disappeared.   There are few people left who don’t simply dash off an e-mail, too hurried to think about its tone, too careless to think about using spell-check.  And it’s a shame, really a shame.

I cherish my stack of letters and re-read them about every ten years.  My nieces and children wrote me delightful notes from camp.  My husband sent me a few love letters so you can bet I kept those, too.  I have letters from my mother and in-laws; my husband and I eventually acquired the letters we had written them as well.  I particularly relish a smart-alecky one my husband sent his parents while in college.  He addressed the envelope “Occupants.”

What I don’t have are letters from a former friend.  Dear to my heart for 25 years, she bridled at one of my e-mail responses.  I can’t claim complete innocence.  I did respond too hurriedly to a comment that hurt my feelings.  Always valuing our closeness, I didn’t intend any offense and apologized profusely once I realized her position.  I was crushed when the apology didn’t take.  So when I re-read my other letters recently, hers went into a clean, white trash bag.  Keeping them was a painful reminder of things gone awry.  But then, reconsidering, I retrieved the bag and sent the letters on.  I hoped she received them in the spirit I intended; her friendship was so special that I wanted her to have them as a chronicle of her life while we knew each other.   After all, they spanned nearly two decades of new journeys, new jobs, and the miracle of bringing babies into the world. 

Perhaps I’d still have a friend if I’d taken pen in hand.  Writing in longhand takes so much more deliberation . . . unless you’re formulating an e-mail to an agent, that is. 


  1. I understand you attachment to letter-writing. Being of the write-a-letter generation, I have fond memories of waiting for the mail to arrive in hopes of hearing from friends (and penpals) near and far, even *gasp* from overseas! :-)
    I feel the real issue is taking the time to be thoughtful about one's words. I've had 2 experiences- one using snailmail, the other using email- in which I lost or damaged a friendship because the words I chose were misinterpreted by the other person. It's hard to know exactly how someone with a different perscective will interpret what you thought you were saying!

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you had a similar experience of losing a friend. It hurts! Apparently, interpretation is all in the eye of the beholder, and we do have to be careful in our comments.

    As far as letter-writing goes, I'm glad to say that I occasionally get letters from my 20-some daughter. :-)