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Handwritten Letters Will Never Go Out of Style ★


My mom went to high school in Hong Kong, and some of her favorite memories include those with her best friend Emily. They would visit a little market near their school and shop for Hello Kitty stationery together. However, their time together was limited. Mom immigrated to the U.S. when she was seventeen, and Emily moved to Canada shortly thereafter. Their friendship was tested by the number of miles between them. Of course, thirty years ago, emailing was not popular, and the average civilian did not own a cell phone. The main way people kept in touch was through traditional letters.

People must’ve had insanely neat handwriting and a whole lot of patience.

purple flowers on brown open book with black and white photograph
Debby Hudson, Unsplash

The idea of maintaining a friendship through handwritten sentiments sounds foreign now, but Mom and Emily shared their lives through paper and pen and were able to keep in touch for years. And now, as technological advances seem to increase by the minute (while our patience decreases by the second), Mom often receives emails from Emily with pictures of Rachel and Hannah, her daughters. Mom and Emily are also able to call each other frequently now three decades later.

black and silver fountain pen with handwriting
Álvaro Serrano, Unsplash

Maintaining a friendship while going to the same school everyday continues to be hard enough now. Somehow, with the power of miniscule postage stamps, Mom was able to make it happen. She always tells me that friendship is a treasure. Friendship comes first for her, and she will do anything to maintain the bonds she has created with other people. Mom has never failed to find a way, even if that way might not be particularly preferable. And now, when I think about my own treasures, they are not that far off from Mom’s.

purple flowers on letter paper with fountain pen and handwriting
Debby Hudson, Unsplash

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know Manya. We saw each other every Friday and Sunday at church, we took a ballet class together, and I spent as much time at her house than I did at my own. However, like how my mom moved to the States, and Emily moved to Canada, Manya and her family had to move to New Jersey over ten years ago so her dad could be closer to work. Both of us were too young to have cell phones, and teleporters still don’t exist. Like Mom and Emily, we resorted to old-fashioned Ticonderoga pencils; sore, stubby fingers stained by graphite; and reliance on the United States Postal Service.

black pen beside envelopes and stationary with leaf doodles and knit scarf
Giulia Bertelli, Unsplash

Our letters lived on for a couple of years. We would decorate each envelope with quirky sketches and “MISS YOU SO MUCH” in blocky fonts, and Manya would squeeze in a couple of directed arrows with a caption, “Isn’t that stamp cute? Way better than those boring Liberty Bells!” I would open up our mailbox every day after getting off the school bus, hoping that in the midst of the bills and ads was a slim, white envelope with my name smack-dab on the front.

red and purple coloring pencils on pink and white marble journals
Plush Design Studio, Unsplash

Because I couldn’t talk to Manya through a portable screen, much less face-to-face or smile-to-smile, I learned about her life in New Jersey while she heard about all our friends in Amherst through lined paper. Manya would speak about her progression in ballet, how she passed her evaluation and was finally granted membership to the “dancers-who-can-wear-pointe-shoes-club,” and the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, or NJASK, as they call it.

Though, it was Manya’s stories that made me laugh the most: “Ok, anyways, the parents started arguing about whether pineapples grew on trees or in the ground. Sigh…” In return, I made sure to include lengthy depictions of how my brother tripped on a shoe and I was on the bed laughing for ten minutes, or how a boy at school slipped a highlighter into my hood (I didn’t realize until I got home). I never wanted to stop reading Manya’s letters.

flat lay photography of wallpaper and brown paper packages with bowl of macarons
Icons8 Team, Unsplash

I made sure to write back as soon as I received a new piece to the story of Manya’s world. Manya was, and still is, one of my treasures, a sister that a girl like me only comes across a few times in her life. So even though we were separated by distance and land, and did not have possession of convenient cell phones, Manya and I were able to find a way with our paper pouches bursting with stories. Though we could not offer greetings in person, we could give time and effort to preserve our treasure.

eyeglasses on paper with Harry Potter\'s acceptance letter to Hogwarts
Rae Tian, Unsplash

Manya and I are still in touch ten years after being split apart. She’ll hear about my college graduation in three years, and maybe in ten years, I’ll be receiving an invitation to her wedding. I can’t wait to swap pictures of our kids when we turn thirty-five and call each other up just to say hello three decades from now.

I don’t doubt that we’ll still be in each other’s hearts that far from now, just like Mom and Emily.

Love letter with flowers
Pezibear on Pixabay

Quarantine pretty much forces us to stay glued to our screens all day with Zoom classes,  Moodle assignments, Netflix, and Animal Crossing. Instead of scrolling through TikTok or watching another Youtube lookbook of outfits you won’t be able to wear in public for a while, maybe you could write a letter and tell a friend how much you miss their comforting bear hugs during this time of social distancing. iMessage is one of our generation’s miracles, but that makes receiving a handwritten letter even more memorable, and I can guarantee you how special your childhood best friend or pal on the other side of the country will feel when they realize that you chose them over an extra hour of Instagram. Maybe you could write a thank-you note to your mom for accommodating your early return home by cooking all of your favorite dishes over the past month or address one to the doctors and nurses at a nearby hospital for risking themselves for the protection of others.

white ceramic mug beside eyeglasses, card with print of purple flowers, and basket of postage stamps
Carolyn V, Unsplash

The feeling of running our fingers over words scrawled with pen is unparalleled; we might be required to stand six feet away from everyone, but nothing can describe the closeness we feel to someone who’s written us a letter, and nothing can match our heart-to-heart connection. I’ve learned that my “Watch Later” playlist will always wait for me, but all the extra time I have now during quarantine will not last forever, and I hope to spend it meaningfully. Happy writing, and I hope you have fun!


If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email hc.mtholyoke@hercampus.com

Elizabeth Huang

Mt Holyoke '23

Hi there! I'm Elizabeth, and I am a prospective English major at Mount Holyoke College. My dream is to become an English teacher and share the magic of literature with others. I read books like they're precious cookie crumbs (my favorites are "All the Light We Cannot See" and "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," and I'm Team John Ambrose), I'm a bubble tea and stationery enthusiast, my preferred mode of transportation is dancing, and if you think I can steer any conversation toward K-Pop, then you're absolutely right. Have a wonderful day!
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