I saw the notice on Facebook; The Rocky Mountain News closes after 149 years.
Another newspaper goes down, adding to the list of closed bookstores and publishing houses. As a reader and a writer, I felt especially sad. Books, magazines, and newspapers have been my lifeline for my sixty-plus years. Was it the economy or was something else contributing to the downfall of the written word? Where was I getting my news lately, and how was I communicating with friends?
In today’s technological age we receive our news, and we keep up our friendships, through electronics. “E-mail me, write me on Facebook, text me, call me on my cell,” is the language of the millennium communicators.
My newspaper still is sitting on the kitchen table unread while I am on the computer. The mail, consisting of bills or advertisements, sits next to it. I remember when the morning news was new and exciting, and when I ran to the mailbox in anticipation of a letter from a loved one or from a dear friend who may have lived only a few miles away.
I closed my computer and walked upstairs to my memory closet. Down came four boxes.
The first one contained newspaper clippings, dating back from World War II to one heralding Man on the Moon. Those old, yellowed clips with advertisements for 29¢ gas are a treasure. Oh, I know I can research their content on the Internet, but it’s different holding papers your mother read–and kept.
The second box contained something I could never find again anywhere else–letters from 1960 through 1966, when letter writing was the accepted way of communicating. There were letters from me to my mother, when I went to college at the University of Illinois. Urbana was only two hours away from Chicago, but it seemed like I was a million miles away. The letters reproduce those years when I was a naïve young girl eager to conquer the world.
The third box of letters was from my boyfriend, Sam, who was in Okinawa as an Army dentist, 1964 through 1966.
Reading those letters some forty-odd years later I saw why I married him, and I saw things I missed as a young girl in love. Right in one of the letters he wrote, “Honey I got unbelievable bargains out here. I’m sending home 1,100 pounds of things for our new home.” As I looked around at my crowded house and garage, I realized right there in that letter was the clue that he was a hoarder.
The last box contained letters from family and friends long gone. I was grateful that these loved ones had taken pen to paper as well.
I looked back at my computer, and my cell phone. All those wonderful e-mails, and text messages I’ve sent and received in the last five years had ended up in the deleted file, never to be read and enjoyed again.
The electronic takeover of our lives does offer benefits. But you can’t spend a bittersweet day with a computer in your arms like you can with shoeboxes full of priceless memories.