Signed, sealed, delivered

A love affair with handwritten letters

For the past few years, I’ve made near-monthly pilgrimages to Tiny Feast, a stationery store tucked into Winnipeg’s Exchange District. I usually head there with a specific mission in mind: finding the perfect greeting cards for whatever birthdays, anniversaries and funerals that the next few weeks could throw at me.

In this increasingly digital age, there’s something magical about the physical act of putting pen to paper. Thanks to a lack of practice and an almost-decade-old wrist injury, my handwriting isn’t as evenly spaced or precise as it used to be, but that’s not the point. Handwritten notes have no delete keys. Writing in this way is a deliberate, tactile experience.

In an interview with PBS, poet Willie Perdomo says “Letters are where we argue, say goodbye, dream, fail, forgive, and tell our secrets, and send regrets. We can’t filter our lives or curate our feeds in letters. Letters are where we attempt to tell the truth and wait.”

He mentions a letter he received from his wife while she visited her childhood home in Puerto Rico. She “could’ve easily sent emojis of sunshine and palm trees or a squared photo of her doing a mountain pose on a local beach.” Instead, she let her tears fall on the paper as she described the fallout of Hurricane Maria and allowed errant drops of coffee to splash over her words.

Letters and written cards encapsulate specific moments and emotions, helping to share those memories with others. When my little sister left home for two years, she didn’t have a cell phone and rarely accessed the internet. Instead, we communicated the old-fashioned way. Even now that we’re in the same city, we still occasionally send each other snail-mail notes and (what are essentially) handwritten journal entries on special occasions.

The Tiny Feast website provides this short explanation about the store’s name: “It’s a metaphor that we use to describe a variety of things that feel celebratory, lavish, almost extravagant – yet are intrinsically simple and useful, and therefore justifiably attainable on a personal, everyday level.”

I can’t afford to ship gifts or visit faraway family members every time someone celebrates an engagement or the purchase of a new house, but I can (and often do) send cards. It might seem like a simple gesture, but it’s something I’d like to bring into the everyday more often.

Even though Tiny Feast is set to close its doors in the coming months, I’m not going to stop writing. As dorky as it might sound, that mission to celebrate the little moments in life isn’t bound to a storefront.  I don’t technically need a specific fountain pen or ruled pad of paper to tell people I’m thinking about them.

But until the shop shuts down, I plan to stockpile as many of their greeting cards and stationery sets as I can.

Danielle Doiron is a writer, editor and marketer based in Winnipeg. She can’t eat wheat right now, so if you have any killer gluten-free recipes, send ’em over.

Published in Volume 74, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 14, 2019)

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