A red letter day is a holiday or a memorable day, something that might be marked on the calendar in red. For me it’s also a ‘red letter day’ when I receive a hand-written letter or card from someone I care about.
First, there’s the magic of seeing your name and address written on an envelope or card in a familiar hand, the pleasure of locating where it was posted by looking at the stamp and, if you’re lucky, a certain padded feel to the envelope promising a few pages of news and thoughts. Or if it’s someone who hasn’t written to you before, or for a long time, you can spend a few minutes puzzling over the hand-writing, trying to figure out, or remember, whose hand it is.
Then, you find a spot to open the letter, by a window where there’s enough light. I usually open it immediately and read through it quite quickly. Then I go back and re-read it later, sometimes more than once. After that, I usually keep it in sight for a few days or even weeks, and if at some point I write back, I will read it again, to pick up the thread of the conversation.
It’s true that letter-writing is becoming unusual – we are addicted to immediacy and convenience and writing letters is neither immediate nor convenient. It takes more time, and if you aren’t in the habit, you might burn up an hour just to find a suitable piece of paper and envelope, and that’s before you think about schlepping to the PO to buy a stamp which in any case costs a ton of money compared to the near zero marginal costs of sending messages in one or another electronic form.
For some people it’s plain ‘quaint’, as somebody told me I was when they realised I still write postcards. But I have been sent photos of small children holding up a postcard I sent them, and smiling or blowing me a kiss for it, and that’s worth a thousand ‘quaints’. I’ve even received postcards in return which would probably qualify as ‘love letters’.
Letter-writing itself hasn’t disappeared entirely – I had one from a friend a few weeks ago, a Saturday morning perspective on human happiness. And if you believe The Younger Generation will never write such a thing, let me say that in the last few years I’ve had more hand-written letters from those aged up to about 12 than from all other generations combined.
Today is Sunday. It also happens to be World Post Day. Over the coming week I will ‘post’ something about letters on this blog every day. If any of this inspires you to find a piece of paper and a pen and write a few lines or pages to someone who’d love to hear from you by post, then drop me a note and let me know.
‘Another marvelous day, another red letter day in my life!’
Source: The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller (New York: New Directions Books, 2010 (1941)), p. 34
Photo credit: Padurariu Alexandru at unsplash.com