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An Old White Shirt Box

                                    Yvonne Oude-Reimerink


       I caught myself recently in the predawn hours, during a difficult time in my life, writing a long email. Now please understand, I have always emailed and am computer literate. My point is I caught myself giving a long narrative of what had been going on in my day, like I had nothing better to do. 


       Normally, my email responses consist of hastily written words such as “got it” or “sounds good”. 

          My rushed life. 

         And the thought tumbled out of my head, when did we get away from writing letters, giving an account, writing a narrative of things in life, licking stamps and envelops, having stationery? We live in this time of constant push and grind, busyness and to do lists, demanding productivity and accomplishments. 

           A pacing in front of our microwaves. 

         The most we can manage is a posting of a picture with a saucy line underneath to express our day on social media for all to see. 

            A caption about our lives. 

            A small window all dressed up. 

           We have this Internet connectedness like never seen before, but have we lost some connectivity in this? 

            A cared for belonging. 

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              When was the last time I sat and wrote a letter? 

              Paper and pen. 

          Oh, how I loved to write letters, silly meanderings about my days, adding laughter and tears to my words. 

              Colored pen and pencil sketches to illustrate my thoughts. 

        Funny antidotes, private jokes and heartaches spilled out on paper. 


          I think back to my mom weekly hauling a box out of her closet. It was a long white, flimsy old shirt box, nothing fancy. In her box was an assortment of cards and envelopes, wispy thin paper and scents, an assortment of pens and stamps. 

             A collection of addresses. 

             Her letter writing box. 

        It was her time to write letters, to her homeland overseas, to friends and family. It was part of the rhythm of her life. 

             An account. 

             An expression.

             A narrative of news and feelings written down.  

       A connecting of paper and pen, cursive flowing words on the page. 

             A sharing of the heart.  

             An art. 


             Oh and how I loved to receive a handwritten letter in the mail! 

             The curiosity, the excitement, expectation, and joy!

        I would hold the letter in my hand, feeling the weight of it, enjoying the texture. Curling up in a chair, I would carefully open the letter.  Whatever happened to letter openers? I would smell and savor the news, feel the flowery letters all in a row, the story, the correctiveness. My heart would soar or crash with news and stories.


         I felt cared for and loved while reading those crafted words, written just to me.

              Sacrificed time and effort. 

              A belonging. 


            As I get older I realize a whole generation that will never know this joy, this lost art form. 

         Never feel the excitement to open a letter filled with words penned out just for them. 

              A token of togetherness. 

              Even I am missing this.

              The sacredness of pausing,

              Putting a narrative of words on paper,

              A joining of hearts and lives through envelops and stamps. 


               I think I am going to get an old white shirt box.  

Yvonne Oude-Reimerink, May 2020

Archived - Pasttimes

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