Artful Days of the 70’s

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I was cleaning out a drawer earlier and came across a few letters from Jack’s Aunt Evelyn. As I read through the letters and admired her impeccable handwriting, I realized how letter writing is a dying art. It’s rare these days to ever receive a hand written letter. Thank you notes, occasionally, but actual letters simply don’t show up in the mail box anymore. Even thank you notes and greeting cards have become electronic. Receiving a handwritten letter today is a real treasure; a real work of art.

Aunt Evelyn’s letters made me think of my own letter-writing abilities, and I realized that I have never been much of a letter writer. Even as a kid when unlimited long distance, instant messaging, and e-mail didn’t exist, I wasn’t good about writing letters. The more I thought about it, the more I became transfixed in 1970’s nostalgia.

It took me back to 1973 when Mr. Madrid (my first crush) taught my 3rd grade class how to write a letter. Part of this assignment included each student writing a letter to someone, of course in hopes that the student would be written back, and during this process learn how the U.S. mail system worked. Most of the kids in class decided to write Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Joe or Aunt Sue.

I decided to write President Nixon.

I have no idea why. I remember telling Mr. Madrid that I wanted to write a letter to President Nixon but I didn’t know his address. Mr. Madrid, who was the smartest man in the whole world, knew President Nixon’s address right off the top of his head! He was so brilliant. I remember him saying, “I know his address, it’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” I’ve always had a thing for great minds…

I actually got a letter back from President Nixon, not hand-written, but hey – it was a real letter from the real president with pictures of his family, the white house, and everything! One of these days I’m going to dig around in the attic of the home I grew up in to see if I can find this letter. I used to look at the pictures all the time, thinking I had a personal relationship and direct link to the White House.

After writing the letter to President Nixon, I felt quite confident that if he would write me back, why wouldn’t Donny Osmond? So my next two letters, with the help of my sister, went to Donny Osmond.

Later in Girls Scouts, we were all instructed to pick a fellow Girl Scout from somewhere far away as our pen pal. I remember being matched up with a girl from Pennsylvania. We wrote back and forth several times, but I got bored with it after about 3 or 4 letters. I remember her writing me back once and telling me that I was a horrible pen pal and that she was going to find a new pen pal if I didn’t write her back. I never wrote back….

I was too busy stalking Mr. Madrid.

He lived in a garage apartment a block behind my house. I’m sure I logged 20 miles a weekend sitting on my banana seat bike riding up and down the street just hoping to get a glance of him and winning his love due to my fine form in bicycle riding. At the precise moment I would be in what I assumed was eye- view from his front window where he could see me, I would ride with one hand; then no hands; then legs propped up on the handle bars…. I was certain I was impressing him with my abilities. He was, after all, a far better catch than stinking Donny Osmond who never wrote me back. I bet Donny Osmond didn’t know President Nixon’s address…

But then I got older and traded in my banana seat for a yellow ten-speed in 1976.

Followed by a few more years when I got Farrah hair.

And then my Grandmother got orange shag carpet and I got a blue velour shirt for Christmas. My Grandmother, however, was ahead of her time and when someone would comment on her beautiful new shag carpet, she would quickly correct them that her carpet was sculpted, not shag - Shag was so 1975...

All the while never knowing the world of technology was approaching and the skill of letter writing would become a dying art.

And that orange shag carpet - I mean, sculpted carpet and Farrah Fawcett hair would go out of style...

So – how did we go from Aunt Evelyn’s letters to Farrah Fawcett hair? I don’t know…. But, I do know this – I’m going to dust off my stationery and start writing some letters; not to President Bush, but to my nieces and nephews. I don’t think they’ve ever received a hand-written letter….

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