Correspondent: noun, obsolete?

18 Sep 2019 | 12:29

Dear reader,

I have a new correspondent. That's an old word, from the days when letters were exchanged over months and years. And we do exchange paper letters, mailed through the post office. But we also text and, occasionally, we write notes on paper, take pictures of the notes and text the pictures. And we are friends on Facebook. There are so many ways to keep in touch, after all.

She expressed concern about the future of handwriting, since her two boys aren’t learning cursive in school, and they have few opportunities to even read the handwriting of other people. I wonder about it as well. In my own household, my husband scrawls grocery lists, but otherwise all his info lives in his head or his phone, including his office and personal calendars. I keep a spiral-bound planner (in which I write phone messages, shopping lists and book recommendations alongside all our life scheduling details), plus a family wall calendar and a steady supply of journals going back to when I was 12 years old.

Actually, I am writing this article by hand, on a notepad, while sitting at a casual bar. I am outside, working at a picnic table – and while you are reading this letter in November, today is a lovely early fall day, and I am overlooking black dirt farm fields. I write most of my first drafts this way – with paper and pen. But I could bring my laptop, or even peck it out on my phone, so portability isn’t really owned by handwriting anymore. They even have Wifi here. Though then I might check Facebook and this article would never get written.

So, what will it be like for my kids? I really can’t imagine, but it will definitely be different than my own experiences. Are these the dying days of pen and paper? Probably not, but I suppose I’ll celebrate them a little, just to make sure I am not taking this skill for granted.

So, the kids are getting fancy pens for Hanukkah this year and special notebooks, too. And I’ve just mailed my correspondent a “Save Cursive” pin I got from a stationary boutique in the arts and crafts village of Sugar Loaf, NY. And for me? A new notebook and the space to fill it with my thoughts and ideas. As Joan Didion said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”