If familial communication were all about dollars and cents, I’d ditch letters altogether and recoup monies already allotted to the other mediums I use all day every day, namely my expensive Internet and the $80 or so spent monthly with Verizon to send unlimited text messages. (I “Tweet” a little bit, too, but the 140 character limit doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me. And why in the world would people want constant updates from me?)
Since the first letter to Ellen was postmarked in 2001, I have withstood six incremental postal service rate hikes (34 cents, 37 cents, 39 cents, 41 cents, 42 cents, and most recently, 44 cents). My guesstimate in postage alone is about $250 based on a 41 cent stamp. I haven’t the foggiest what paper and envelopes have set me back, but it’s just the cost of doing business.
But in terms of return on investment, there is no better bang-for-the-buck. It’s a steal as far as I am concerned, because my kids, parents and friends get something hand-made and for their eyes only (until letters are posted here, of course) but you see where I’m going. When you factor in relaxation, creative impulses, desire to stay in touch and satisfaction every time that letter hits the bottom of a mailbox, well, it is the bargain to end all bargains.
Dipping again into the archives, here’s a letter that stretches back into the kid’s early college years. Please don’t ask about the 2001 letters; my lapse in judgment about “storage” is too painful to bear. I’ll tearfully cover that sometime soon.
April 18, 2003
EB and Reid:
So, Scoots and I were stuck at home this weekend while your mom was at her women’s retreat (aka, “Retreat from Men), him unable to tell me what he wanted, me unable to stop telling him I couldn’t understand what his whimpering meant. I think it’s one of three things: ‘I’m hungry’, ‘Give me a treat’ or ‘Let me outside’.
It seems like everything has instantly gone green. The trees are blooming and the daffodils are done already. We’ve had a fair amount of rain, which activated the fertilizer, meaning the mower is in full swing every 4-5 days. The best $40 I’ve ever spent was to haul it in to Sears for a tune-up and overhaul. Starts a little easier now after only 3-4 pulls.
This Sunday we head to Charlotte, North Carolina for a few days. We’ll tour the area and have dinner with a guy at a bank who wants me (knock on wood) to do some PR work for the bank. Your mother has never been to that part of NC, so it will be a good trip. She’ll come back Tuesday, I stick around until Wednesday afternoon. I’m not keen on moving down there so maybe it will amount to a lot of freelance work. That would be the best thing.
Was in NYC last week for three days. That’s almost two days too many. I know the city is full of gonzo shopping and tourist spots galore, but I never stop into the stores. Or the museums. I just stay in my room and watch TV while eating pastrami on whole wheat with Swiss and mustard. Went there for a workshop put on by a tool maker and garage storage manufacturer of an upscale garage organization system. Without exaggeration, I’ll wager there were 14-15 people from _____ and ______ in the session (we had to make a wine rack out of wood, which was a total disaster) and there were only 3-4 media types in the room. And that’s not counting the PR agency folks milling around. It easily cost them $100,000 to put this show on. No kidding. And they paid my way to NYC. Too bad I didn’t like any of the tools or the garage thingy.
Moving out of this office later in the week. It will be good to get home. The four windowless walls are not as inspirational as they might be. It’s like be cooped up in the basement, only without the TV and refrigerator.
Mike is coming over for golf on Thursday. Don’t know much about his new movie, Cinderella Man, with Russell Crowe. He starts the Da Vinci Code this summer over in Paris. Tough life.
Almost rode Saturday to Grand Island to see Ralph. But it was raining when I got up at 6:00 a.m. so those plans were scrubbed. That would’ve been a fun road trip, just put the hammer down at 80 mph once I reached Nebraska. The old girl just passed 18,000 miles. Was thinking about an Electra Glide Standard, but the thieves at the Harley dealer wouldn’t budget on trade in value.
Well, gotta go. Columns to write, people to talk to, web sites to be surfed. You guys be good. Hard to believe we’ll be there in a month. Again, no lettuce wraps, please.