By Debra Karplus, MS
If you want to keep in touch with your grandchildren, you certainly need to be well-versed on using e-mail with its protocols and quirks, and better yet, you’ll want to have a presence on social networks, and become adept at texting, despite some lost dexterity in your arthritic fingers, or your declining visual acuity. After all, don’t you want your grandchildren to view you as “cool”, and more important, be approachable?
Hopefully your memory is intact enough to recall the last millennium, you know, before the Y2K panic, when some telephones still plugged into the kitchen wall and had perpetually tangled cords. Back then long distance calls were pricey but families lived within the same area code. On the rare occasion that a long distance call rang at your house, it was a very big deal; families gathered around the dial telephone to hear the news, while people conversed, nearly too fast to understand, in order to save money on the telephone call.
In those days, if you wanted to communicate with someone who didn’t reside in your zip code, you most likely would write a letter, fold it neatly into the correct sized envelope, lick a stamp on it with adequate postage (this was long before the emergence of the “Forever” stamp), and walk to the corner mailbox so that the mailman could deliver it to the recipient. Letters loaded with family news, party invitations, greeting cards and thank you acknowledgments were a refreshing contrast from the bills that arrived in the same batch.
While you were a student in elementary school or junior high, you might have even acquired a pen pal. I had two pen pals. While in seventh grade, I was learning French at school, and was matched up with a Parisian girl my age named Marie. I wrote to her in French, she wrote me in English. Amazingly, we maintained that correspondence for over ten years until it gradually ended sometime when I was in college.
My other pen pal was Joanne. Our mothers had gone to school together, and we became playmates by the time we could toddle and babble. Then, Joanne’s family moved away. Following a visit at age seven, we decided to experiment with our new prowess at printing, and become pen pals. By the end of third grade we progressed to letters written in cursive. Sometime in high school, we figured out that a typewriter could make small work of our frequent communication. Despite marriages, careers, and new addresses we maintained the correspondence. And of course, these days our half-century of staying connected has evolved into periodic e-mails, especially at holiday time.
If you’re like most grandparents today, your grandchildren don’t live close enough to come over and enjoy the gingerbread cookies that you just pulled out of the oven. You’ve probably become accustomed to talking with them on their cell phone. If you’re lucky, they have your number on speed dial.
But, wouldn’t it be nice to reinstitute the custom of letter writing. You, the adult, would need to be the one to initiate this activity. Enclose something fun, such as dot-to-dot pictures for your first grade grandchild. Send riddles to the older ones.
Children of all ages will enjoy when their parents open the mail and distribute your letter addressed to them! You’ll be delighted when you receive a letter back from them. Even a five year old who is learning the alphabet can receive parental assistance to articulate a few thoughts for a letter to you, or can enclose a picture that was colored at school. So get busy writing, now!
Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a Midwestern college town. She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past and is a featured columnist. Learn more about her at http://debrakarplus.blogspot.com.