Writing Your Stories via Snail Mail

I’m a big fan of writing letters to my grandmas on a constant basis. Whenever they write back, I always hole punch their notes and stick them in my journal. So when Rachael from KitchenCourses.com and How to Cook for Yourself: A Complete Beginner’s Guide wrote to me about her story of writing letters with her grandparents, I think I may have squealed. And then I proceeded to write about five letters. This is so fabulous. Take it away, Rachael…

I have always been a storyteller, although I didn’t really know it until about nine months ago when I discovered Making This Home. When I came upon this site, I thought to myself… wow, I should really start documenting my life.

Strangely though, I always had been, just in so many different places that I never realized that all together they made up my story.

I had written on blogs, in journals that were half filled, or in scrapbooks. The one place that I just recently realized I was sharing my story was through letters.

Letters? Yes, letters! I began to think about how many different letters I had written and received over the past few years since I had moved away from my hometown off to college, then to where I’m living now. Not only was I sharing my story, but these people were sharing theirs with me!

Two people in particular were sharing their stories with me regularly: my grandparents.

When I moved away to college, they started writing me letters to keep me company so I would feel like there was a piece of home with me every few weeks so I didn’t get lonely. My grandparents would write to me about the neighborhood happenings (I was very lucky — they live across the street from my childhood home!!), gave me updates on the cat that I left behind, and shared with me all the social events they’d been attending, never leaving out what they ate for dinner or a comic clipping from the newspaper. I would write back and tell them all about my roommates, my dorm room and (later) apartments, give updates on my boyfriend (now my husband), and what had been happening in school.

It was the perfect way to connect when I couldn’t just skip over to their house for a chat.

Just recently, I got to thinking about those letters and how I could start to pull them together to tell our story in a new way: a story told through letters about our relationship as granddaughter and grandparents. I’ve been at work the last few weeks gathering and ordering the letters by date to create a journal that I’ll always have to remember my relationship with them, a journal full of their stories and their reactions to mine.

I’ve also started writing letters and became “pen pals” with my two nieces, ages 5 and 2 (my sister is their scribe), so I can start documenting their stories to share with them when they’re older. It’s a fun and interactive way to document some of the things they have found so fascinating as kids. And now it’s being passed through the generations in my family.

If you’d like to start a new tradition of story telling in your family, use these steps to start telling your own story through letters:

1. Think about the people in your life whose stories you’d be interested in preserving that might not be willing to write them in a journal for themselves. For me, this was my grandparents who didn’t think their daily stories were interesting enough to write down and nieces who can’t write for themselves just yet. But you could create your own story of the letters you write to anyone you care about. You could even write letters to your children as they’re growing up, and noting the changes in their interests, abilities, and characteristics.

2. Write! Get out your lined paper and start writing to them. Tell them you’re interested in keeping up with them regularly through letters (or emails). Ask them to write back to you and tell you what’s been happening in their lives lately and what’s keeping them excited about life whether that’s what they eat for dinner each day or the dance class they just signed up for. Let them know you’re interested in what they have to say and they’ll likely be more than happy to start writing to you.

3. Compile the letters you receive back in a notebook, a journal, or a file. Be sure that each letter has a date on it so you can look back and remember what was happening in your own life at the same time. Organize the letters in a meaningful way to you, whatever that may be. Maybe you could hole punch them and put them in a binder by date. Or maybe group them into what the content of the letters contain. Create groupings from the letters in ways that make you smile and appreciate your relationship with that person.

4. Share with the person who you’ve been keeping up with. Let them know that you’ve been creating a story of your relationship and share how important it is to you. It’s a true gift to someone and to yourself to hold on to good memories and value those moments that someone took to appreciate their relationship with you.

Thanks Rachael! Are you a letter writer or think you could be? Who do you send notes to? …and who are you going to go write to right now?!

psst… here are some tips on decluttering and organizing your stationery if it’s a bit dusty.