Keys Homes
Sunday, August 11, 2013
'Wish you were here' The dying art of writing postcards

By LESLIE LINSLEY Special to The Citizen

Two weeks ago in the Sunday New York Times opinion column there was an essay by Tom Hanks, actor, director and writer. He was extolling the virtues of the typewriter. Apparently he's a collector of old typewriters and the article was about the nuances of the typefaces and sounds elicited from different styles and models. By the end of the article you almost wanted to revert back to carrying a typewriter around, chucking the computer, which is beginning to feel like a stone tablet in comparison to an iPad.

Last week I received three correspondences. One was a postcard on the order of "Wish You Were Here" with recognizable handwriting that rendered a signature unnecessary. The card came from a friend vacationing in Vermont and surely arrived long after the person had returned home. But the thought and the item were so quaint and thus worthy of sticking into a desk drawer as a keepsake. The second was from a total stranger, a Hurricane Katrina survivor. There were five pages neatly written on composition paper and looking exquisitely like a carefully composed elementary school assignment. However, this was from a mother of six who, because of the loss of home was living in a trailer and writing to tell me how much my books have helped her get "the look she wants," namely country style. It was complete with a drawing of the floor plan that included a "writing corner."

She went on to say she was really working on "getting the look" (a phrase that she kept repeating on each page) and it was quite touching to hear I had inspired her with my books that she takes out of the library. Imagine a trailer with eight people living in it and the woman of the household concentrating on decorating the place. Surely an example of positive thinking. Secretly I was grateful that the library carried so many of my books. And finally a nice note from the Nantucket Historical Association president thanking me for my writing about living with antiques and trying to educate new young buyers of early historic homes to restrain from totally demolishing and modernizing their interiors as many of them have been doing here.

Each correspondence was quite different from the other with one thing in common. They were all hand-written. It reminded me that letter writing may, in the near future, become just as extinct as a typewriter. These gifts in my mailbox, old-fashioned means of expression, were unexpectedly appreciated.

One of the time-tested activities that we all used to do while on vacation was to send a brief message on a postcard to friends back home. Whatever happened to this tradition that has always been part of what we do when we travel? Maybe tourists still do this when they visit Key West. I guess texting has become the new flavor of the month, or I should say, flavor of the nano-second. Even if you aren't on vacation you might consider dropping a line or two on a postcard to friends you only see in the winter. What a surprise that would be.

And if you're in a more expansive and expressive mood, pick up a blank journal at Office Max and begin a memory book of what you love about Key West in the off-season. Some of us here on Nantucket do this in the winter. I know you can do all this by text, email, on Facebook with a Twitter or a blog, or a photo posted on Instagram, but someone might actually save a handwritten postcard. A journal can be passed along to future children and grandchildren and besides it's fun to do something totally for yourself. You'll be able to reread it as often as you like in the future and know how you felt at this particular time. Make a journal of an experience, like moving into a new home and all the trials and tribulations, including feelings associated with change.

And here's an idea I got from a college sophomore at Colgate University. She and her boyfriend, at Syracuse, actually send letters to each other.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's fun to get an actual, physical letter in the mail. Something addressed to you that you can open," was her response.

She went on to tell me they keep a journal together.

"It's a small booklet that we write in then send it back and forth. We each add to it. Sometimes I make a list of things we can do when we are together and he comments on them or adds to the list. It's fun."

Could it be that letter writing will become the "new" way to communicate?

"I like that sometimes I get the mail after we've already met up. It's like waiting for a surprise in the mail."

Maybe they'll discover the typewriter and a new generation of correspondence will emerge. Until then, a good beginning might be a "Wish You Were Here!" postcard from Key West, the splashier, the better.

Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.

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