Chip bags crinkle and closet doors squeak as family members grab evening snacks behind me. Condensation coats my narrow glass, puddling on the desk below, and ninety-degree weather hangs heavy on the twilight.
"Watch the trees," my friend advised me earlier this week. "When the leaves go belly-side up,there's a storm coming." Peeking out my windows tonight, I catch sight of a few maple leaf bellies, but most are demure, hidden.
In a week of ninety-degree weather and one hundred percent humidity, we have moved college boys onto campus, and carried couches up and down flights of stairs, and in and out of a shiny black pick-up. Different friends graciously shared a couch, a pick-up, and their strength on a sweaty night.
Dropping off some college textbooks yesterday, I stepped into my son's new home on campus. Bunk-beds, dressers, and three desks crowd a brown and white dorm room, and on his desk, I see it. Familiar writing catches my eye. Propped up in the center of his desk, my son has a handwritten card and note from his little sister. Sloped writing speaks out a promise from the Bible for him, and a nearby card speaks of love and pride in him, and thanks him for being a brother that she looks up to, learns from, and misses already. On a desk with few papers on it, these stand out.
The Huffington Post, in an article entitled U.S. Postal Service Survey Reveals Personal Letters at a Record Low, noted that for a "typical American household these days, nearly two months will pass before a personal letter shows up" in the mail. In addition to the increasing rarity of handwritten notes in a world of email and texts, Kentucky Living.com wonders about The Lost Art of Writing Thank You Notes, and CBS Minnesota's television channel asks Good Question: Are Hand-Written Thank You Notes Extinct?
Similar articles continue to catch my attention this year, convincing me further that my mom was right. Growing up, my parents gave us construction paper, crayons, pencils and notebook paper, with instructions on how to write thank you notes. We labored over them, our hands cramping up at times until we stopped to shake them out, and then resumed. Christmas or classical music played in early January as we wrote to grandparents, friends and families about the presents they gave us. Lively music flowed in early May as we sent out birthday present thank you's. My parents' reasoning was persuasive: if someone took the time to send you a note, give a gift, or extend kindness in some way, then our time was just as meaningful to spend on telling them thank you.
It stuck, and affects my parenting. At my house now, after Christmas and birthdays, or graduations, we pull out cards, slide out pens, and set the mood. Scrawled writing, shaky from disuse, and mounting lines of prose climb up the page, but gratitude seeps out more--and studies show that joy does too. This discipline of joy and thanks-- to my Maker, to the people in my life-- I desire it and strive for it.
So, tonight, as humidity and ninety-degree weather reminds me of this week's couches and moves, I pour another glass of ice water, pull out my basket of cards, and scrawl messy up the page, muscles still shaky from disuse. "Dear..."
Hi, thank YOU too, for being here, for reading and sharing your life. Thank you for the quiet solidarity of knowing you are here, whether you comment or not. And for you who slip comments in from time to time, thank you for that. I love hearing from you.
Linking with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.
Photo credit #1 from bhmpics.com.