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June 1, 2005

Many Modes

2005-05-31 letters4.jpg

Many years ago, at a garage sale near my old house on Long Island, I bought a used suitcase. It sat empty and untouched for nearly a year. When my parents sold our house, I moved everything I was storing there to Brooklyn. This included nearly twenty-five years worth of letters. Tied with old ribbons and kept in more or less date order, they needed their own place. Hence, the suitcase.

Since Lex left for Miami, he has sent me a letter every day. Oddly, I have not received letters in that intensity-- or any real letters, for that matter-- in years. Last night I opened my suitcase to file Lex's letters and found that it was jam packed, the latest postcards from traveling friends and notes from grandma lining the already bursting case of letters. One by one, I pulled them out.

There were letters from my friends when we were eight. A postcard from Casper, my childhood cat. My first love letters. Adolescent notes sent to me in summer camp, decorated with markered tie-dye, bubble handwriting, and snotty gossip. I read my birthday cards from 1992 and letters from my mother. As I opened envelopes and unfolded yellowing paper, it hit me: there are so many ways to communicate these days. They bring you superficially closer, but what remains that is tangible?

When we miss one another, Lex and I can call our unlimited minute cell phones, fire up instant messenger, or write an email. We can send photographs to one another in seconds. True, I could print out an email or photograph, but it is not the same. There is something about the traditional letter that freezes time; it is a special kind of placeholder.

When I think about all of those letters in my Long Island suitcase, I am transported back to the time that I received them-- those impatient days waiting for a response to arrive in our post office box, the excitement when the mail arrived and there was a letter, decorated in collage or with a fancy stamp, written just for me. It makes me wonder if, in the act of bringing people together, these tools of immediate satisfaction have cheapened the art of correspondence, of memory.

Of course, when it comes to missing Lex, I am first on line to use any of those conveniences turned norms. Nevertheless, it�s something to ponder.

Don�t miss the Flickr outtakes from my suitcase photo shoot�Irving vs. Suitcase, aka My New Bed.

Posted by callalillie at June 1, 2005 6:45 AM | Introspect


I want to mull this over, as I have had relationships (that lasted years) that no longer feel quite as real to me, because I have no letters, nothing to hold in my hands and think, "You thought of me, and wrote/recorded this tape/sent me a rock from Puget Sound/etc."

Posted by: Velma at June 1, 2005 10:08 AM

haha uncle irving looks soooo happy there!

Posted by: discostu at June 1, 2005 10:11 AM

Uncle Irving so did not fit in the suitcase.

V, I agree. I like to be able to open things or hold objects and remember a point in time. Sometimes I print important emails, but it doesn't feel quite the same...except for that email from my father, circa 1995, which went on for three paragraphs (remember when you had to scroll through Kermit to read email?) about how he could not accept my lifestyle...only to discover that he was talking about my flavored coffee consumption. That was a keeper.

Posted by: corie at June 1, 2005 10:19 AM

What is it with cats and suitcases? Why do they think that the minute you open one, it's a cat pile free for all? It must be linked to that theory they have that people want cat butt in their face while they read the paper.

Posted by: breana at June 1, 2005 1:21 PM

File that with their general disregard for privacy when cleaning their privates.

Posted by: corie at June 1, 2005 1:44 PM

I have much to say but I'll save it for a letter. ;)

Posted by: Alexis at June 1, 2005 2:10 PM

Ha. Your suitcase is too small. You need to go suitcase shopping...especially if you continue to recieve regular pre-conjugal correspondence.

Non-sequitor: Started reading a book called Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate. Totally makes me think of you...if you haven't read it already, add to your book list.

Posted by: Cynthia at June 1, 2005 3:19 PM

There's nothing like an old letter to bring you back to a moment. As you know, I siphered thorugh my old correspondences just a few days ago. The wonderful thing...I realized that every letter and card spoke to a part of me. Reading through all of these words, made me remember parts of me that I have sectioned off from myself for a while. It was a great reminder for me to see that I am so much more of a person than what I give in the day-day on any given day.

Now, a suitcase... I like that idea for a storage of moments.

Posted by: Maddie at June 1, 2005 8:28 PM

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