On Valentine’s Day, 2018, I wrote an email to a friend of mine thanking him for transforming a wooden box, originally for silverware, into the writing box of my dreams. I love the romantic idea of fountain pens, personalized paper, postage stamps, and handwritten correspondence. I hope this box becomes a family heirloom, but if it isn’t cherished by one of my kin, I know it will find its way to another family.
My husband brought this beautiful box home to me because he appreciated the grain in the wood. I happened to mention that it was unfortunate that it was filled with dividers because, unpartitioned, it could become a memory, or writing, box.
The next day, my husband secretly took it to our friend, who happens to be a skilled refinisher. The box was built to last, as a silverware chest. Our friend spent hours working to remove the felted, wooden dividers, and then he stained and repaired the piece. No one could afford the hours required to repurpose this treasure, so he refused payment, suggesting he would never do another, calling this project a labour of love.
I am so grateful for the gift of his work. Whenever I walk past this box, I am transported to a more formal time when handwriting was an art form, and written invitations and thank-you notes were expected. It reminds me of life’s simple blessings.
My husband, while still a young boy, often sent me greeting cards. Sometimes, they came in the mail, but occasionally they were hand-delivered. They were always unexpected. I remember going into the kitchen with a pile of beautiful cards and asking my mom where I should store them. She suggested I buy a scrapbook. My husband and I now have over ninety scrapbooks, holding sixty years of memories.
I have never been able to throw away a meaningful piece of writing. I have letters and postcards written by my grandmother in the late 1800s. I have even purchased antique cards written by people I don’t know. I love to imagine the lives they led.
Some years ago, after an invitational breakfast and book reading, one of my guests sent me a thank-you postcard. I still have it!
Recently, I invited a woman for lunch. We met on Facebook, and although we have many mutual friends, and I admire the work she does, we had never actually spoken. We had a delightful lunch, and a few days later, I received a package in the mail. This beautiful thank-you gesture was a bright spot in my day, and I will keep the unexpected note forever.
I love a little book called The Art of the Handwritten Note, written by Margaret Shepherd. My eldest daughter sent it to me in the mail. It was one of those unexpected things. The subtitle of the book is A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication. I keep it in my writing box for inspiration. It even includes a chapter on how to rescue your handwriting.
A few months ago, I wrote about my mother-in-law’s universal handbook in a blog titled Before Google; there was The Universal Handbook. This handbook, published in 1938, provided a guide for doing life’s essential tasks properly. It suggests that well-written communication, demonstrating respect for the recipient, usually invokes a positive response.
I have come to realize that unexpected gestures of caring provide lasting joy. A handwritten note is always a pleasure to receive. However, an animated greeting card in my inbox is also extraordinary. Whether received by post or by email, a good letter should contain the best composition we can manage. Giving or receiving written comments filled with kindness and gratitude makes everyone nicer.
I received this card in February of 1965. Happy Valentine’s Day, 2020!
Today, I send special Valentine hugs to Ralph, Helen, and Patricia. Thank you! Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, dear Gordon!
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