May was always a killer month for my brother and me. Mother's Day alone was tough for a couple of kids who, together, couldn't formulate much of a gift-giving plan outside of a giant card and a cheap box of chocolates. But Mom's birthday and our parents' wedding anniversary were two days apart, and inevitably the three allowance-stretching occasions fell within the same weekend. Things got a whole lot easier once I started listening to dear ol' Mom: She always said the same thing, "Don't buy me anything, honey, just write me a nice letter."
The art of letter writing nowadays is all but dead. While the argument can be made that the postmodern art of e-mailing has replaced that outdated form, there's still plenty to be said for pen, paper, and good old-fashioned postal service. E-mails are great for the backpacker who can reach 26 of his closest friends with a stop at Thailand's premier Internet cafe, but when you've got something significant to say—and when it's the time of year when telling your loved ones how much they mean to you isn't just socially acceptable but also truly appreciated—by all means, take the time to do it right.
It's important to keep in mind that it's the message, not necessarily the medium, that will make your letter meaningful. Besides, if you've got some semidecent paper, a few colored pens, a couple bucks to spend at Kinko's, access to a graphics program, and a decent printer—or even half a shoe box of glue sticks, glitter, and art supplies—you can create your own stationery. Make photo- copies of your saved ticket stubs, paste them creatively around a piece of colored card stock, and write a letter inside the border. Use your kid's construction paper and paints to make your partner a sweet card. Affix the label from your favorite bottle of wine to a piece of burgundy-colored mat board and add a note expressing your adoration. Make a cute cartoon flip book out of 3-by-5 cards and write a story about your relationship to go with it.
The only thing you really need is something to say. And while my colleagues might not appreciate me saying so, there's really nothing to the actual writing. Take 10 minutes to reflect on your most recent or cherished memory, let go of your inner editor, and then cut loose. Tell them what drew you to them to begin with, tell them how good you feel when they're near you. Just tell them, honestly and without inhibitions, what's in your heart, because that's something a new pair of slippers can never convey.
I don't think that my mom knew that in telling me to put my love down on paper she was really growing a little writer or creating documents of history; I think she just got tired of collecting weird-smelling bath products and ugly knickknacks. But last summer, as I dug through her jewelry boxes in search of something to borrow and came across a homemade Christmas card from 1982, I realized that those crayon-colored sentiments meant much more to her than I ever realized. She certainly didn't hang on to the shower gel, but she's still got those little girl words.
From unique, ARTFULLY DESIGNED CARDS to colorful, TEXTURED PAPERS WITH MATCHING ENVELOPES, there are plenty of options for the discerning scribe at stores like Paperhaus (2008 First, 374-8566), Papyrus (1210 Fourth, 464-1505), and Communique Cards & Gifts (2211 Queen Anne N., 284-4111).
For a more HANDS-ON APPROACH to the craft, try Utrecht Art Supply (1124 Pike, 382-9696).