Remember When…?

By Janey Womeldorf

Remember When…?

I picked up the box and was shocked by how heavy it was – now I was really intrigued. All I really wanted to do was rip it open right then and there, but agonizing as it was to resist the burning curiosity surging through me, I remembered the frozen goods defrosting in the car and thought unloading them might be a tad more responsible. Suddenly, a strange wave of sadness punctuated my mood. It confused me at first then it hit me – I was feeling nostalgic. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been this surprised or excited about getting something in the mail; nowadays, it’s mostly bills and junk. I suddenly longed for the days when getting the mail was fun, when people did things like write “real” letters. In this instant-messaging world of e-mails and texting, is it that we have become too busy? Or too lazy? 

I struggled to remember the last real letter I wrote and felt ashamed. Other than sending the annual Christmas letter, the last long letters I wrote to friends were all e-mails. Given the legibility of my scribble, this is probably for the best; however, I confess I have grown to appreciate e-mail: I love spell check, I don’t miss standing in line at the post office to check postage, and I enjoy being able to draft and edit my letter over the course of a couple of nights before I hit send. And it’s quick. I’ll even check my e-mail the next day secretly hoping for an equally chatty and newsy response back. Why the rush? 

And what about texting? Is it eroding the art of true communication even further? It is already changing the way today’s younger generation communicates and develops friendships. My friend was recently telling me that her teenage son used up all his months’ minutes flirting (which is apparently now done one sentence at a time in text messages) with a girl from his school. When she asked her son why he didn’t just pick up the phone and call her, he rolled his eyes in that “how-uncool-are-you” way that only children can.

Another girlfriend recently moved her family to a new state. Her teenage daughter is still resentful of the move and has struggled to make new friends. I tried to relate but couldn’t. I was blessed with one address and two schools growing up; my husband, on the other hand, moved 11 times and attended 13 schools before the age of 18. I relayed my friend’s situation to him and asked him if he had struggled to make friends at his new schools. His response saddened me. No, he never experienced a problem, but things were different back then. Few people had home phones, let alone cell phones, and so the only way he could have stayed in touch was by letter. Little access to his old friends forced him to make new ones which usually happened on the playground or in the cafeteria. Nowadays, it’s not easy to make friends when your peers spend much of their time staring downwards, absorbed in the text they are sending. My friend’s daughter cannot, and does not need to, let go of her old friends – they text constantly. Likewise, the girls in her new school are too busy texting within their existing circles to allow for meaningful face time for new friendships. I immediately felt sad for my friend’s daughter. The art of communication is changing in this “immediate gratification/now” mindset of our busy culture, and I fear we are losing something special.

With groceries put away, I went back to the box. It was from Arizona. The only people we even knew in Arizona were a couple we had met almost a decade earlier during a magical, wine-filled vacation in Tuscany, Italy. We had only seen them once since, but stayed in contact albeit through the yearly Christmas letter and occasional e-mail. About three weeks previous, however, inspired by the bottle of wine we were drinking, my husband and I had pulled out the photos of our Tuscany wine vacation and, in a burst of spontaneity, called them. Twenty joyful minutes later, we were all up-to-date on our lives, our jobs and our current favorite wines.

Difficult as it was, I waited for my husband to come home so we could share the excitement. I let him absorb the mystery box for a few minutes before we ripped at the packaging.

“Oh my goodness!” we both cried, before erupting in joyful laughter. To our amazement, two bottles of our favorite wine stared up at us. We immediately called our “Tuscany” friends gushing with thanks; they had made our day. The wine was delicious beyond words, but even more heartwarming was the thoughtfulness and effort behind their gift. 

In this time-sensitive, electronic age, it’s easy to dismiss communicating in a way that requires extra time and effort. Our unexpected gift had been a beautiful wake-up call. Whether it’s a spontaneous phone call to an old friend, a hand-written letter or a Christmas card in which you have done more than just sign your name, sometimes taking the time and making the effort is a gift in itself – of course, accompanying it with two delicious bottles of wine doesn’t hurt either.

So, to our dear friends Ann and Ruk, thank you again for the wine, for the thought and for taking the time. You made getting the mail magical in more ways than one.

We toast you. Cheers!

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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2 Responses to “Remember When…?”

  1. Ann Adams says:

    Cheers to both you and Jim, we will be thinking of you with love this holiday season!

    XO Ann

  2. Jusy B. Smith says:

    WOW! I am from Memphis,TN. too and glad to see another TN. freelancer who writes so well. I am a freelance writer who lives in Kure Beach, NC. I’ve thought about submitting something to Sasee but now you may be my inspiration to do so.Thanks so much. I think you are correct about the changes in ways people communicate today . I have to MAKE myself not check e-mails so often as I wish for words from others out there in cyber space. Wonder how we ever stood waiting for the mail when actual letters were written and sent by snail mail? Thanks for your work. Judy

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