The art of the love letter

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

MELVIN AND MINNIE SHAVER

The art of the love letter

A love letter is like a fine work of art. Its value is reflected in how it touches the soul.

The great age of the love letter seems behind us, replaced by Twitter’s 140 character max and the quick thoughts we hastily punch into our phones using only our thumbs.

For Melvin and Minnie Shaver, love letters always held a special place in their hearts. After all, letters were the only way they could communicate for the first two years of marriage, and were the foundation for what is now a more than 76-year romance.

After taking a job with Schwartz Showell Case Company, a woodworking shop, late in his junior year of high school, Melvin began attending night classes at Central High School – where Minnie was also a student.

Their budding romance had begun to flourish, and Minnie’s locker became a mailbox for the love letters the two would exchange. Melvin always included a stick of Dentyne Chewing Gum with his heartfelt notes, while Minnie’s would include endearing poems and profound words of affection.

They were two kids in love – in love during a time when a world war raged. The young couple were just 16 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and after Melvin enlisted in the U.S. Army and was shipped overseas in 1943 shortly after they married, they once again relied on letters to convey their love.

It was the stroke of a pen that kept the two connected, even though they were worlds apart. Each thoughtfully-crafted word carried more weight than most of us could ever imagine, yet bared the hopes and dreams they each had for their future.

Letters from home were a sustaining force for all military service personnel, Minnie recalls. Most of the letters she sent Melvin included her picture so it would seem as if they were having a real conversation. She later found out he had removed those photos and carried them close to his heart in a small Army issued can opener envelope.

Now married for 73 years, Melvin, who still calls Minnie “Babe,” and Minnie, who still calls Melvin “Huns,” are the embodiment of love. At 92 years old, they’ve turned those first love letters into a lifetime of happiness, partnership and devotion – a relationship that their children, grandchildren (including me) and great-grandchildren strive to emulate in not only our own relationships, but our everyday connections we have with others.

I often think about the lost art of writing letters. I’m only in my 30s (though closer to 40 than I like to admit), yet I remember a time when getting a new pen pal was an exciting adventure that awaited.

Each day in college, I would eagerly await for mail from home, hopeful I would see an envelope addressed to me from a close friend or loved one who seemed so distant, yet just a few hours away.

Love letters especially have held a special place in my heart. In an old shoe box that sits at the top of my closet, I have every note my husband and I have ever written to each other, though I admit as our lives have become more hectic with the addition of kids, work obligations and everything else that comes along with life, putting words on paper hasn’t exactly been a priority. I suspect this is the case for many couples.

I think back to my grandparents and what it must have been like to yearn for the written word – to wait for that day’s mail delivery in anticipation, hoping that a simple piece of paper with scribbled words would somehow fill, if only temporarily, the complex voids they must have felt as they were separated by thousands of miles of ocean.

This month, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to write a love letter – whether it’s to a significant other, a daughter or son, or a friend. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences about how you feel.

Take it from my grandparents, those words can mean more than you could ever imagine.

Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. what a beautiful tribute for Valentine’s Day and especially to her grandparents. The story is written with
    love, it shows that throughout the content. The thought of the importance of letter/note writing is touching,
    and it has trickled to the next generation with the exchanging of her and her sweetheart husband’s notes. A timely and well written thought for any day.

  2. I really enjoy your column, Christine! I look forward to reading it in each issue of the Messenger. This article is my favorite one yet! It’s personal, it’s touching, and it’s meaningful. I’m all about the “old-fashioned” letter writing. It says “I love you” and “I take time for you”. And in our digital world it’s all too easy to forget the value of just sitting down and thoughtfully writing a note to someone we love. Thank you for a great article and message, Christine!

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