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A letter's value goes beyond stamp's cost

By LaVERNE HAMMOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2001


The post office has increased the price of mail again this year. Some claim it's because people aren't writing letters anymore. Too many people are using e-mail instead.

Electronic communication is well and good for business, but for me it doesn't have the same impact as a personal letter. Don't you get a thrill when you spot a letter addressed by hand among all the junk mail that is dumped into your mailbox?

Letters have played a special role in my life. When my husband and I first dated, he was on a two-week leave from the Navy during World War II. When he returned to service, the many letters we wrote to each other brought us together. Our exchanges of contemplation and love helped to cement a relationship that lasted through 52 years of marriage.

Writing letters is a wonderful vehicle for getting to know someone with whom you are romantically involved. I continued to write to my husband throughout our married life, even though we saw each other every day. I tucked notes into his briefcase, his wallet and his pockets. After he died, I discovered many of these missives in his dresser drawer. He must have cherished them to keep them all those years. Would he have saved his e-mail so faithfully?

Letters are a good way to keep in touch with family, even family you have never met. I write letters to all my relatives in Sweden, those I met when I took a trip years ago to Stockholm and those I have never met, because they live far up in northern Sweden, where I have never been. We have talked on the telephone and exchanged photographs, but the letters keep us all in touch as a family.

E-mail seems so fleeting. I suppose you can print out your correspondence, but there still is nothing like seeing someone's handwriting over the years, nothing like reading, with delight, over and over again, what they wrote. I especially cherish a letter I received from my paternal grandmother with whom I shared a birthday:

"Today you are 6 years old," she wrote, "and I am 49 years older than you. Besides our birthdays, we also share the same name. You were the best birthday present I ever got." She signed it, "Love, Grandma."

Children of all ages love to receive mail. It is important to those who are away at school. Sure, you can send e-mail, but a hand-written letter is bound to make them feel special and loved. Mail is important to those in the service who need to hear from us. They certainly don't have much access to e-mail.

If letter-writing seems burdensome, why not just send a card with a few hand-written thoughts?

I'm not a press agent for the postal service, but I do think sending a good old-fashioned letter from time to time is a good idea. Who knows? You just may receive one back.

* * *

- LaVerne Hammond, who divides her time between Wisconsin and Florida, is an octogenarian at work on her memoirs. Write her in care of the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg FL 33731.

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