Sprawled on her bunk bed at Canada's Camp Wahanowin, Miriam Footer spent hours every summer relaying her experiences to friends and family back home in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The biggest dilemma she faced then, as a 10-year-old, was what to scrawl her camp tales on: Should she use the pink and orange polka-dot poodle stationery or the purple notepaper covered with caterpillars and butterflies?
"Collecting stationery at camp was such a big deal," says Miriam, recalling the joy of covering envelopes with stickers and stuffing them into the lodge mailbox. "Giving letters and getting them. Wasn't that the best?"
Today, of course, many young campers prefer text messaging and cell phoning to writing their parents and boyfriends in longhand. With computers and Blackberries, a person can go for months without writing anything except their signature now and then. The result? Bad handwriting and mailboxes crammed with junk mail instead of correspondence.
But Miriam is aiming to change all of that.
When she opened The Write Image stationery shop in Sugar House with her husband and mother-in-law last year, she stocked the shelves with colorful letter sets and note cards to appeal to a younger crowd, as well as older customers who grew up knowing the value of a handwritten letter.
"It's so important to hold onto the art of letter-writing and teach our kids how to do it," says Miriam, 39, a mother of two who commutes to her shop from Park City. "Sending an e-mail just doesn't have the same impact. In our high-tech world, we've gotten a little lazy."
Miriam is the first to admit that modern technology has made life easier. In fact, before she opened her shop, she sold stationery strictly over the Internet.
"You have to adapt to the times," she says, flipping through elegant paper samples during a recent Free Lunch chat, "but you also have to hold on to some of the past."
She's thrilled that calling cards the Victorian kind, not the telephone kind are making a comeback.
Although nobody has a butler these days to present cards on silver trays from visitors, "It's a fun way to introduce yourself just your name, a phone number and maybe a few words or a design that represents who you are," she says. Then, after people get to know you, "why not write them a letter?"
Miriam has a large box of letters she has saved over the years from high school chums, lost loves, aunts, cousins and camp friends. She's thankful that she's still able to add to the collection, because in her family, hand-scribbled thoughts are a must.
If people don't pass the tradition of letter-writing down to their children and grandchildren, she wonders, what will future generations have to show the uniqueness of their loved ones' lives? Photocopies and printouts of e-mails hold about as much appeal as old tax records. "Where is the romance?" Miriam asks.
"Handwriting is so unique it speaks volumes about a person," she says. "Writing on nice stationery, the way the pen flows. There's really nothing like it."
There will never be a problem
with e-mail taking over in the Footer household. Miriam's children, Jack, 2, and Sari, 5 weeks, already have their own engraved stationery.And when they're old enough for Camp Wahanowin? Miriam grins. They'd better not phone home, she says. Nothing except correspondence through snail mail will do.
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