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Dear John

May 9, 2012
Wetzel Chronicle

Dear John, I am unsure how to tell you something that I know will hurt you. I guess the best way is to tell you outright I have found someone new. Your being away for so long has changed my heart's affection for you. I hope you will understand this is a most difficult decision for me. It is only fair to tell you that I have found a new love. That love is your best friend, Bill. We both hope to still be friends when you return home. This is the best for the three of us.

With Best Regards,

Jane

P.S. We sold your old car to get money for our honeymoon. I know you would want us to be happy.

***

A Dear John or Jane letter is perhaps one of the most notable letters someone can receive from another person. It is most often written when time and distance comes between two people who were in love or at least thought they were. The letter has the ability to break-up with someone and not come face to face with that person. Most likely that will happen later.

It is not known when the first letter was written, but most likely it was far back in history. Writing was believed to have begun in ancient cultures of the Middle East. It is very unlikely a Dear John letter was inscribed in clay tables or on papyrus paper. But those who first wrote in symbols and later in early text understood the importance of writing. The new messages could be written down and given to someone later. Man had discovered a way to communicate in a way other than face to face.

Love letters have been around for many years throughout history. Some letters have survived to be retold and published much later. Napoleon Bonaparte was perhaps one of history's most prolific writers of love letters to his beloved Josephine. "I cannot go a day without loving you: I cannot go a night without holding you in my arms. I cannot have a cup of tea without cursing the glory and the ambition which keeps me away from the love of my life." He thought himself to be a writer along with being a great Emperor.

Letters from soldiers in the Civil War have told of the terrible loneliness in the waiting for battle and the lost glory of war when battle came. Soldiers in the field often see things and write them down so everyone who read their accounts understands the realities of war and being away from family. Some were known as a letters from the front.

There was a time when a letter from a loved one would announce itself even before being opened. On the back side where the envelope was sealed is an impression in red lipstick of the loved ones lips. Below it would be four letters. SWAK, or sealed with a kiss. Often a bit of perfume was added to the letter to remind the letter's recipient of a favorite aroma.

Perhaps the first letter we may have received was from the girl sitting across from us in class. You remember it was folded a special way before a friend gave it to you. There must have been some rule that the first love letter you send or receive is delivered by a third party. You open the letter and it may say only a few words. "I like you. Do you like me?" Most often girls were the first to send letters. Boys never were big on writing down their feelings. And do you remember the first time you wrote down," I love you?"

The written word has in many ways defined our growth in culture and communications. The need to communicate over long distances was helped along by the U.S. Mail. In 1775 the Continental Congress appointed a Postmaster position to begin organizing a mail system. The men of congress realized the importance of being able to communicate around our new country. It was the second government office created. Undoubtedly it was not long after that the first Dear John letter was sent to a fur trapper who went west leaving behind a forgotten promise and a lonely woman.

From those early beginnings people began learning to read and write. This basic skill allowed people to move west and still occasionally be in touch with those left behind.

The Lonely Heart Clubs gave people opportunities to find others through writings. There may be someone reading this that has had a Pen Pal growing up, someone whom you may have never met face to face but through writings. You most likely developed a friendship with the written word.

Remember the Airmail letter? The envelope was marked with red and blue striping on the outside edges. It was believed to be the fastest way of sending a letter across the country. First class and second class were also words we all knew when sending a letter to someone.

A form of letter writing you may have written while growing up is a letter to yourself. We called them diaries. A dally letter written to remind us of our thoughts and feelings. Inside the locked book you could write to yourself of hopes and fears that were within your heart and for no one else to see. Those secret messages to yourself were often comforting when written down.

For many men a letter from Uncle Sam was always a letter difficult to open, a Draft Notice. In my day, I can remember friends telling of the day the letter came with greetings enclosed.

Today, handwritten letters are becoming a thing of the past. Messages are sent instantly around the world with a touch of the finger. In a blink of an eye the words appear on the small screen of a loved one far away. Yet it is not sealed with a kiss or touched with a favorite fragrance. It is cold and electronic.

Yes, I understand that now you can be in front of a screen and see someone thousands of miles away. You also can touch the screen as if to feel their face. This is a good thing. But somehow the romance of waiting for a letter to arrive that was sealed with a real kiss is now gone.

I realize views of the world around me are as old and gray as am I. But there was a special time when we took a moment and put pen to paper as we told someone we loved them. Perhaps if we all take time to sit down and write, "I Love You", fold it just that certain way, and give it to that special person, our world may be a little better for it, "For my wife, I love you", as I remember Thru the Lens.

 
 

 

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