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Don’t Forget to Write: The Lost Art of Letters From Camp

At my 30-year camp reunion in the Ozarks, people came from all over the country because of fond memories and deep at­tachment. The minute our cars turned into camp, we abandoned our adult selves and reverted to the campers we had been. I saw my friends as we had once been instead of as we are now. We felt an immedi­ate reconnection after so many years.

Remarkably, one of my friends had saved a binder of our camp letters: evidence of our existence in one another’s lives. Most of the letters sent us into fits of laughter; oth­ers left us nostalgic as we heard sweet mis­sives from a long-lost love to his girlfriend. But the most amazing thing about the letters was their existence. My friend had not only organized the letters and stored them, but she actually found them after 30 years.

Our kids won’t be so lucky; they won’t have binders like this because they don’t write letters to their friends anymore. They text, they email, and they Facebook, but what of this legacy will remain? Unless our kids hit “print” after every email, they won’t have anything in writing to document their ado­lescent history. They will have no evidence of their comic statements to friends or gentle romantic overtures to their crushes.

I tell my kids to write thank you notes because I believe that an email thank you is unacceptable. The notes must be hand-written and from the heart. But how many of our kids ever write a note to one of their friends? Do they save anything that might resemble the binder of letters? Emails, texts and Facebook posts are fleeting; they disap­pear as fast as the next status update.

Kids’ Camp Letters A Thing Of The Past

In my family, I am the keeper of nostal­gia. While my eldest dedicates a shelf in her closet for schoolwork and art projects, and my younger ones seem to hold on to favorite books or stuffed animals, I maintain the his­tory. I have boxes for each child’s significant schoolwork and art projects and a small box of letters from my older two children, let­ters they sent home while away at overnight camp. But I suspect neither one has kept any of the letters we sent to them. And, I doubt that they exchange letters with their camp friends during the school year. Yes, they up­load photos and share them on Facebook, but they have no permanent keepsakes.

Will today’s kids hold their personal history with the same amount of reverence and regard that our generation does? I love to reminisce and reflect on my past. But I have memorabilia that sparks my memories. I am the parent who, while driving in the car, will turn down the latest ver­sion of some song on the radio to tell those captive children in my car just exactly where the original riff came from or who sang the original version of the song. I feel that it is important to honor the original song. Which only begs the question: Am I wrong to care?

My goal this year is to encourage each of my children to write letters, to keep evidence of their childhood relationships and memories in some kind of permanent way. Journaling, blogging, printing emails and saving the letters they receive from home so that someday, they, too, can create a binder of their own to share with old friends.

Lauri Fleischmann Stern is a regular contributor to Your Teen Media.

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