My father is 90 years old and hard-of-hearing, and calling him on the phone is difficult. I travel all over Texas for my job, so I send him a picture postcard from wherever I go. It's a nice little surprise and lets him know how much I love and miss him.
This year for my dad's 70th birthday, I promised him a letter a week for a year. Sometimes it's a long, chatty letter; sometimes it's a greeting card with a short note; sometimes it's a postcard. Whatever I send, he knows I'm thinking of him.
Several of my friends live too far away to visit, and for whatever reasons, we had lost touch. Last year I resolved to write each of them a letter every month. It doesn't matter if they respond; it just matters that I've made the effort. And when I do hear from them, they always say how much the letters have meant to them. Something in the mail that isn't asking anything of you is always nice.
Sherman Oaks, California
I write letters every Sunday afternoon. If it's sunny out, I take my cup of tea and write on the balcony. In the summer, I go to the beach. Occasionally I insert a little gift―a beautiful leaf in the fall, a pressed daisy in the spring, a recipe for rosemary bread in the winter.
Sallie Ann Westbrook
Before I started law school 10 years ago, I was an avid letter writer. But law studies and a private practice have made that impossible. Now I communicate by e-mail. Last year my mother spent the year in Prague teaching English, and she and I talked almost exclusively via e-mail. She said it was the highlight of her week to check for messages from me, and I loved hearing about all of her adventures.
My brother and I had never been close growing up, but that changed abruptly when our father had emergency bypass surgery last May. My brother and I began communicating through an instant-messaging service to compare notes on what was happening and give each other moral support. Now, even though my father has recovered, my brother and I still exchange e-mails. Our relationship has become substantially deeper.
New York, New York
My family circulates a round-robin letter via e-mail. The first person sends a note to the second, the second to the third, and so on until it returns to the first, who starts all over again.
To stay in touch with my grandmother, I regularly buy and send her note-card sets, postage stamps, and a pen. She uses these sets to write to me, and I use a special note-card set to write to her. It has become a wonderful ritual for us.
My sister and I take turns filling a box with birthday presents, newspaper clippings, remembrances from childhood, etc. We send it back and forth. As I write, I'm filling up the box with things for my brand-new niece. The first box went through the mail so often that it became more tape than box. We're now on our second one.
Ever since I moved away from home when I was 19, my mother has sent me cards, clippings from the local paper, and cartoons she cuts out from the comics. There's nothing like getting mail from home.