Growing up, my sister, Rebecca, and I had bedrooms that were two steps apart from each other. We didn’t always get along (as typical sisters are meant to be), but one thing we used to do was write each other mail, even though we lived within whispering distance. At sporadic periods throughout our childhood, we both had “mailboxes” taped to our bedroom doors, which is where my parents were told to leave our snail mail or any other important correspondence. Sometimes this included notes from my mom that said things like, “Do you want to go to the bookstore this afternoon?” or “Would you prefer to have spaghetti or lasagna for dinner?,” to which we promptly replied and delivered to our out-boxes, also taped to our bedroom doors. Of course, Rebecca and I also exchanged snail mail during our childhood, and I still pull those notes out every now and again for a good laugh. We gossiped about neighbors, and, in one, she asked how I felt about “sqwishing ticks.” (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t care for it, but it was a necessary evil in the Midwest to rid our dog’s body of the clinging creatures.)
If you take these door-to-door deliveries into account, Rebecca has been my longest snail mail friend. We wrote to each other when I went to college and then moved overseas briefly. We haven’t actually lived together for nearly 15 years, but the two of us have always written each other handwritten letters, signed, sealed and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Rebecca and I now live two time zones away from each other instead of two steps, but we make time to get together and travel every year. When we aren’t together, we’re generous in sending postcards and letters, and while we chat on the phone every now and again, it’s a very rare day that we use e-mail as a substitution for communication. We like to send each other stuff through the mail—a random cat whisker, a magazine article, a funny advertisement. These quirky enclosures add a bit of whimsy to our correspondence, and they’re just as important and meaningful as the letters we send.
My sister is currently hard at work on her doctorate degree and hardly has a moment of time to spare, but she always seems to find time to write to me, and I am undeniably appreciative of that. Rebecca just moved to a new apartment in a new state (away from her husband, Ren) to complete an internship for her program, so I made her a card with a house on it to welcome her to her new space. The letter inside was fairly inconsequential and pretty standard as far as the two of us go. I told her a bit about the new group of kittens we have living with us and what we’re doing to count down our remaining days of summer. Because we write so frequently to each other, snail mail between Rebecca and I really is an ongoing conversation punctuated with in-person encounters, short phone conversations and text messages. This is the first letter I’m sending to her new home, so hopefully she’ll appreciate a piece of snail mail with her new set of house keys.