I got a pleasant surprise in the mail this week.
The surprise was not that the mail arrived in the same month it was sent, and from the same city, which is often surprising. The surprise was an actual handwritten letter.
It has been quite a topic in the media lately — hardly anybody writes letters anymore. You know, with a writing stick and a sheet of that paper stuff. Those white sheets that you put in your computer printer.
I know it takes time and effort to scribble a handwritten letter, get an envelope, address the envelope, lick a relatively expensive and unpleasant tasting stamp, walk down to the mail box and post the letter by shoving it in the slot and hoping for the best.
Compare that to typing an email letter a mile a minute on your computer, or speed-thumbing a text on your phone, and pressing send.
You could fire off a dozen or more letters in the time it takes to create one handwritten, snail-mail missive. And maybe that’s one big reason why the world is moving much too fast these days.
Well, I’m happy to say the world slowed down pleasantly when I received that letter. It was on three-ring-binder foolscap – my kind of stationery – written in cursive (look it up kids!) and it was from two very exceptional people who had read about nobody writing letters anymore.
And appropriately enough, the pen-and-paper friends happened to be my very favourite teacher of all time and her excellent husband, who was everybody’s favourite school principal.
The well-known local educators and aviators, Mr. and Mrs. Lougheed, wrote about “the good old days,” but Bert admitted “My computer can spell a lot better than I can and my iPhone is more up-to-date than Kathy’s 1954 set of encyclopedias.”
He’s right, of course, and handwriting is a skill that’s gone the way of the dodo bird and the straight nib pen and inkwell.
But I can remember very clearly Mrs. Lougheed’s Grade 3 class at South School and the practice writing and spelling bees, and how much fun she made it all.
And also the time she brought an actual pineapple from Hawaii into class. Since this was about the time stegosauruses were wandering around outside the window, we’d never seen a pineapple before, and when she cut it up, each one of us got a piece.
Those wedges of deliciousness were even better than Sweet Tarts and candy corn!
And of course, Mrs. Lougheed smiled and had us write a little story about it.
The first letter I ever wrote and sent in the mail was to Mrs. Lougheed. It was a while later and she was at home with her new twin baby girls. The Lougheeds invited me to the house to visit, and I still remember how special that was.
It was obvious to all her charges she cared about her students and their well-being, and their learning, and she had the rare gift of bringing the best of life’s lessons to those of us who were lucky enough to be her students. And always with a twinkle in her eye.
“Keep up the good work,” she said in the letter. “We all need a little more laughter in our lives.”
It’s like she just gave me an A+.
Mrs. Lougheed’s Grade 3 class was a long time ago, but I’m still enjoying writing little stories. And I still love pineapple.
And right now, I have my pen and paper, envelope and stamp right in front of me, and I owe some lovely folks a letter.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.