lost with e-mail
A young friend of mine has headed off to summer camp. She'll be gone for a couple of weeks, and it's been suggested she might like to receive some mail.
The thought of mail at summer camp brings back happy memories.
There's nothing like having your name pronounced in front of all the other campers during "mail call." That's how it was done at the camps I attended.
For a brief moment, mail recipients had status. Everybody wanted to know who the letter or package was from, and, more importantly, whether you had received something edible you were willing to share.
My parents were reliable correspondents. They grew up in a time when everybody wrote letters, so it was second nature to them.
My mom would write sweet notes on plain stationary about what every family member down to the dog was doing while I was away.
The letters from my father, a newspaper editor, were different.
He complained that his handwriting was illegible so he typed.
He used long sheets of what was known as "copy paper," the same stuff that newspapers are printed on and what everybody in newsrooms used before computers came along.
He was an imaginative writer whose subjects ranged far and wide. As I read his lengthy letters, I could imagine him sitting in his home office late at night.
On a typical day, he would have worked until time to come home for dinner. After we all ate together, it was his habit to take an hour's nap.
Then he would be up until the wee hours. Perhaps it wasn't a healthy practice, but he was a night owl. If he didn't have something to write, like a long letter to a child at camp, he would engross himself in a good book. He often read whole books in one sitting.
If he were writing, there next to his typewriter would be an ashtray holding a cigarette with a column of smoke rising above it. He might not smoke much of it, but he couldn't type a word unless it was lit.
I didn't think this way at the time, but I'm sure those letters helped me have a good time while I was away. I could read them, imagine my parents just as I'd left them, and feel secure.
Sometimes even my brother or sister would write, although they often were at camp with me, and that was even better.
At home we were often fighting. When we were away, we were grateful to catch glimpses of one another.
Some summers I spent six or seven different weeks at a variety of camps, usually related to 4-H.