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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Originally published August 4, 2006

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

Some things are harder to get rid of than others.  At this time of year, I find a constant trail of sand on the floor more suited to a house by a shore than one by a city.  It comes home with my family in their clothes and bags on the trips to beaches and parks that earmark the summer.  Despite my best efforts, I can never get rid of it completely.  Long after the swimsuits are packed away for the season, I can still count on finding remnants of sand in some corner of the house.

Unlike the sand, there is another sign of the season that is not as easy to find once summer is over. It is the handwritten letters and postcards that show up in the mailbox this time of year. While traveling in the summer, family and friends seem inspired to communicate the old-fashioned way.  Just as I welcome the more leisurely days of summer, I look forward to the delivery of mail during these months.  At other times of the year, I approach my mail with the enthusiasm reserved for an airline meal.  The usual mail delivery is nothing more than an unappetizing mix of credit card solicitations, catalogues and advertising circulars flavored only by the bills to be paid.

For the time being, the mail is the source of many different adventures for the whole family.  So far, we have received postcards from Quebec, Paris, Nice, Hawaii and Maine.  While studying the postcard images over bowls of morning cereal, we are transported to places beyond our kitchen table.  Like a ride on a flying carpet, we can travel far and wide without leaving the sisal rug under our feet.

The images alone do not make the postcards appealing to me.  The handwritten notes from family and friends are an even bigger attraction.  The first sight of the easy script of a person’s hand on a postcard, rather than the rigid print of a computer on other accompanying pieces of mail, is irresistible.  It is like finding an abalone shell with its sparkling interior among the drab mollusk shells on the beach.  In this case, it is not only the brilliant shine on the inside of the abalone shell that captures my attention, but I have also found a glistening pearl that has somehow ended up inside with the personal thoughts and experiences of family and friends written on the cards.

Even the limited space of a postcard cannot diminish what is expressed there.   In two or three written lines, most people are able to convey something that takes me outside of my own place and time if only momentarily.  Some cards deliver a feeling of haiku with a descriptive yet compact style.  Even the well-worn “wish you were here” message on a postcard cannot be dismissed with the warmth it brings to an unseasonally cool summer day.

For the times I prefer the plot line of a story to the simplicity of a Japanese poem, there are also the letters that arrive for my family during the summer.  The most common come from children we know who are away at camp.  Having no personal experience of my own at a sleep-away camp, I am left to wonder if there is an enforced time for letter writing.  It is sometimes hard to believe that these kids feel compelled to write because they are missing us in between the fun and games at camp.  Whatever the reason, it is no matter.  Like a good summer movie for the entire family, we all enjoy hearing the escapades at camp.

In particular, I enjoy the camp letters from my nephew and niece.  Aside from the experiences they share in them, I relish the ways they sign off their letters.  My nephew always formally signs his first and last name as if I need some reminding as to his identity.  My niece, on the other hand, expresses her lasting affection with sentimental words and drawings of hearts and arrows.  In her letters, I find not just one pearl but the whole necklace.

When summer is over, it will be hard to find any letters and postcards in the mailbox outside the house.  Unfortunately, that will not be the case with the summer sand inside.  Along with the sand, I hope to find some letters or postcards that I could not get rid of before.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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