Why We Cherish Letters

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ever since The Takeaway reported on the US Post Office's plans to scale-back mail delivery, eliminating Saturday deliveries, listeners have been calling, emailing and texting us with stories about their most cherished letters -- missives from parents, grandparents, lovers and friends that have changed your lives.

Here at The Takeaway, we're collecting your letters -- and your stories about why they matter so much. If you have a letter that you cherish, whether it's one you've written or received, we'd love to feature it on our program. To submit a letter, email us at takeawayletters@gmail.com.

Letters don't just detail personal lives; they chronicle history too.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the thousand-some letters exchanged between John Adams and his wife Abigail. Margaret Hogan, Managing Editor of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society and Coeditor of "My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams" shares some of the highlights of their exchange on this President's Day. 




Margaret Hogan

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [8]

Caroline from Manhattan

My father wrote me a handwritten letter every week of every year I was in college. No, this was not in the 1930's, it was from 2008-2012. I saved every single one.

Feb. 22 2013 03:56 PM
Marc from Parlin, NJ

In the mid 60's my grandfather was an invalid in a nursing home, where he committed suicide. What my brothers & I did not learn until after our father's passing (while perusing his belongings) was that my grandfather had written the three of us a letter. In that letter, he apologized for his actions and explained that he loved us so much that he didn't want family resources devoted to his care when we (his grandsons) could better use the finances for education and other necessities. He said that God might not forgive him, but he hoped we would.

Doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons - what an expression of love.

Feb. 19 2013 08:10 PM
Joan Holmes from North Haledon

I recently came across a large picture postcard from my father,sent in 1996, the year my father was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. On the front of the card is a photograph of our home on the lake taken in the mid sixties. That Christmas, my father mailed his cards to everyone in town. The postcard shared a view of our lakefront home after the first seasonal snowfall with the lake not yet frozen. Beautiful. My father loved taking pictures. But this card was sent to me many years later and I saved it. On the back it reads as follows: "We always had waterfront. We always had the good life-good struggle-good times. The song says "the memories of my mind" but now there are better times ahead-for all. Don't ever-ever give up: the best is yet to come...I know." JR
My father died in 2003. He suffered from Parkinson's Dementia for the last few years of his life. He did enjoy the good life and tried his best to give one to myself and my sister. He loved us and so I treasure this simple post card. I'm sorry he's gone.

Feb. 19 2013 07:06 PM
Phyllis from Brooklyn

During the first Gulf War, my son was in college and he knew that my husband and I were vigorously opposing it.

This is an excerpt from a treasured letter that he wrote to us at the time:

Simone de Beauvoir once said that one of the worst tragedies for women is that they were not allowed to participate in war, because war is when men have shown that they care more for ideals (like freedom, democracy, justice and so on, and thus become fully human) than they care for their own narrow self-interest.

She was writing, of course, during the French resistance to the Nazi occupation.

This war is much different... and isn't for any ideals except the ideal of American World Domination, but in opposing this bloodbath, we get to go beyond our small private worlds and join in a community of resistance and so, again become fully human in working for humanity and against death.

That, in itself, is revolutionary.
Love you,

Feb. 19 2013 03:33 PM
John Weber from NJ

I write a letter once a year, on their birthdays or thereabouts, to each of my two kids aged 2 and 4 now. I'm a bit older than the average dad and I'm well aware of the fact that I likely won't there once they are young adults or have kids of their own. I include simple stuff like what they like to eat or not eat as well as characteristics I observe. But I also have included things like why we chose to have another child - so they'd have each other all their lives - and a sincere wish that they get along and love each other.

I can't get through them without crying but I love it. And I hope I am providing something for them they will cherish or at least learn from their whole lives.

Feb. 18 2013 03:34 PM
Jane from Massachusetts and North Carolina

I have to recommend "Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters", a nearly 20-year correspondence between Ms. White, an editor and writer of "Onward and Upward in the Garden" at The New Yorker, and Ms. Lawrence, a southern writer and gardener. The letters offer commentary on garden topics, but even more, they document the friendship and respect that developed between these two women, and their support of each other, even at a distance, through the changes in their lives. The letters are down-to-earth and eloquent, warm, witty, and moving. They make you want to take up pen and paper and write to a friend!

Feb. 18 2013 01:07 PM

On the anniversay of my husband Jon Merkel's death 18 Feb 70 KIA flying in Laos for Air America, I treasure the letters Merk and I wrote each other when I lived in Bangkok and he lived in Sai-Gon. I joined him in Sai-Gon after 3 months living apart. Several letters were printed in LOVE & WAR: 250 YEARS OF WAR TIME LOVE LETTERS [Susan Beszy Wallace 1997]

From Jon Christian Merkel to Kay Merkel
4 July 68
Hi Love,
Happy 4th of July. No fireworks in these parts although some have been expected. Nothing but the usual B-52s dropping bombs, 20 or 30 miles from here, on the VC positions. Sounds like the rolling distant thunder of a summer rainstorm…. Merk

17 July 68
…Thoughts for the day: Love pushes aside the bitter findings of experience. Love knows for a fact that which is not a fact; with ease, love believes the unbelievable; love wishes and makes it so…. Omnia vicit amore—love conquers all. I am by love possessed. I am yours alone. I love you, Merk

Feb. 18 2013 12:58 PM
Mike from Queens NY

Will we be able to glean Adams family-like insight, guidance and inspiration in 300 years when our electronic communications of emails, tweets, Word documents, PDFs and scans of paper letters are impossible to read by future generations?

Most of us see it already, where for the most trivial of reasons, if deliberation is employed at all, correspondence & other documents get electronically heaved, wholesale.

Etch-a-sketching our history?

Feb. 18 2013 09:57 AM

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