Sending birthday, Christmas and get-well-soon cards has long been a tradition within friendships, but during the pandemic there has definitely been a rise in my circles of sending letters and postcards for no real occasion at all. It matters less what is actually on the picture side of the postcard: I actually have a habit of hanging mine up backwards so I can see all my friends’ handwriting on the wall. Receiving a physical note from a friend gives such a sense of materiality to the relationship, especially as it has become near impossible to see them in real life. The shape of the handwriting seems to kind of replace their natural body language, or the way they walk, making one feel more in touch with their character or essence.
It doesn’t matter that by the time the postcard arrives, you already know how they are doing from last night’s FaceTime. Letters are a better place for the minute details of the week, like how you saw a gorgeous ginger cat on your way home the other day and stopped for a moment to think about how much it looked a cartoon shining sun. Or how the trees outside your window are beginning to shed their leaves. Such details carry a great sense of romance, even if it is platonic romance. The materiality of the paper bears the intimacy that the pandemic stole from many of our friendships, but that we can repair and reinvigorate as we adapt to the new dynamic.
Sending postcards and letters is especially helpful with friends who are living in, or stuck in foreign countries. The intricate stamps and air mail stickers give a sense of how globalised relationships used to function, and you can feel so much more involved with your friend’s experience. There’s also a romance to how the card travels hundreds of miles in trucks and planes and then finally on the postman’s bicycle to your door. Thinking about how this little note arrived feels similar to looking up at a night sky full of stars and realising how small you really are. This little note was transported by so many different people, over diverse terrain – and for only £1.80 – has travelled further in a week than you have in this whole year. It is good to sometimes feel small, yet simultaneously know that the spirit of the friendship is much larger and greater than the physical distance between each other.
I love social media, and replying to one another’s Instagram stories often feels like enough to sustain a pandemic-friendship, but it’s nice to know that we can have both – that the friendship has a multitude of different dimensions. These friendships are the ones I know will never wane.
Image: takomabibelot via Flickr