When I in college, I can remember writing SWAK on the flap of an envelope: Sealed With A Kiss. As my tongue brushed the sharp edges of the envelope, I could imagine that I was sending a kiss through the mail, a kiss my boyfriend would get a few days later. I have boxes of old love letters in my basement, many of the envelopes bearing that acronym. And I have the letters my mother sent me while I was in college, many with scotch tape still clinging to the edges because I used to tape the funny ones on my door for my friends to read. I've got the letters my father send me to, a series of dashes and dots written on yellow legal paper, because he liked to send letters in Morse Code. I've got a whole stack of letters written on familiar blue airmail sheets from the semester I lived in London. Someday, I'll look through those letters to get a glimpse of my life and who I was at that age.
I wonder what young people do now to indicate that an email they've sent is a love letter. Is there some acronym they can put in the subject line? Perhaps TWAC? Typed With a Caress? Or SWLS? Sent With Loving Strokes? I think fingers touching a keyboard could invoke a loving image the way that lips touching an envelope might, but it really doesn't lend itself to a catchy acronym.
But the strangest thing, I think, is that my kids won't come home from college next May with boxes of letters to be put in the basement. Emails are easily deleted, and instant messages disappear the same day they are typed. Saved emails last only as long as the computer, and the life span of the average computer seems to be decreasing all the time. Text messages are deleted with a quick touch minutes after they've been sent.
My instinct is to save words, to fold them into bundles, store them in boxes, archiving the relationships in my life. So it makes me nervous to think of all the emails we write -- some serious, some silly, some heartfelt -- disappearing almost as they've been read.