At the moment, my mother has no access to a personal phone reducing her communication with the outside world to one Zoom meeting and one phone call weekly via the recreation staff of the nursing home in which she resides.
"Lauren, I need you to bring me something," she says on our latest call. "I need writing paper to reply to a lovely letter I got from Ethel (her cousin)."
Although we all might love the immediacy of email, text, and instant messenger, there is nothing quite like the intimacy of a letter arriving in the mail. And for my non-digital mom, this is what she relies on.
And in some ways, I do too.
When I was young I liked writing letters and I remember the stationery the way others remember their beloved toys. There was the paper with Snoopy on his doghouse. The pad and matching envelopes with the beautifully illustrated house plants. The box of scented lavender paper.
My husband and I encouraged our children to draw birthday cards and thank you pictures to kids and adults alike. To this day, their "letters" are the stuff of legend: push pinned on the corkboards of my husband's business associates who were particularly kind to the kids. And we learned that their work is showing up in unexpected places too. Like the drawings sent to our neighbor's mom which our neighbor uncovered when clearing out some belongings. It brought us both back to a simpler time, when writing and crayons were king.
Last spring, when our family participated in our temple's writing campaign it had the perfect purpose and timing. We sent letters and cards of cheer to patients of a Long Island facility in the early days of the pandemic. Like many others, we realized that there was something we could do even while sheltering in place. These elderly people were lonely. It just felt right to remind them that they weren't alone.
And as for my mom and her penchant for letters? Last summer, in the midst of rehab I heard her voice and confidence waning. The walking was hard, the exercises demanding. As the phone call ended, I realized there was only one true way to communicate with her. Each Lev took a piece of paper and pen and wrote a note, reminding her of the importance of staying the course and getting well. I had meant to do this more frequently, but there's been a lot going on. But if I know my mother, no matter where the letters are today, she got the message and that's what mattered.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing fundamentals as well as advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY Old Westbury.