Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Letters

I was having coffee with some old friends on Sunday when talk turned to our travels - recently as well as when we were much younger. I'm not sure if this a mother daughter thing but we discovered that our mothers had all kept our letters and returned them to us many years later. This started me thinking about how communication has changed in my lifetime and it's much more than just easy access to almost anywhere on the planet.

During my travelling days and later when my parents were living at One Arm Point, an isolated Aboriginal settlement the north west of the state, before they retired and went off around Australia, my mother and I wrote religiously to each other once a week. Those letters still exist and provide a record of our lives at the time. Things are very different now.

When Virgo went on her travels a few years ago we sent emails to one another with occasional phone calls when something untoward happened such as the 2005 London bombings (one took place a few meters away from where she was staying) or when she fell down a cliff and broke her wrist in Canada. There are no long leisurely letters compiled over a week about all the little things that constitute daily life and add up to a file of memories. We kept in touch and we cared but the nature of emails means they are different in structure - shorter, less detailed. With each generation we commit less personal communication to paper and I suspect this will be seen as a great loss in the future.

One of my friends is writing a book around those returned letters. Her children are scattered over the globe now and Virgo intends to travel again soon. It makes me wonder how the travels of our children will be recorded and if their lives will be a mystery to their descendants in a way that our generation's need not be. No doubt much of what we leave behind will be discarded but for an historian who wants to make the effort there are rich pickings.

2 comments:

Laura E. Goodin said...

I wouldn't worry about the historians. The number of blogs there are out there that go into agonizing detail about what the blogger's cat vomited up that morning is so astoundingly large that we are in no danger whatsoever of losing the minutiae of daily life. If anything, there are more of other people's minutiae than any rational person ever needs.

Imagine me said...

True but blogs and emails lack that human touch of handwriting that tells so much about a person. As my mother grew older arthritis had a very marked effect on her writing. She had no need to mention it because I could see it but emails and blogs show none of this.