Dan Conradt: Texting Grandma takes about a week
How are you? I am fine …"
Two failed attempts at a cursive "G" and a heavy hand with a big pink eraser had nearly worn a hole through a sheet of paper from my Big Chief writing tablet. The first "G" would have been perfect if it wasn't backwards, and the second one looked like something that … nearly 30 years later … would become the temporary name of the artist formerly known as Prince.
"School is going good. I got 100% on my speling test …"
Number 2 lead pencils didn't come with SpellCheck.
"I went ice skating last night and only fell down one time"
"Why don't you write a letter to Grandma?" Mom had suggested that morning, sensing my boredom. "You can tell her how school is going and what you've been doing."
I was reluctant until she added: "If you send Grandma a letter, she'll send one back."
I'd never gotten a real letter before and kind of liked the idea.
I sat at the kitchen table and pulled the writing tablet, two pencils and the eraser out of my book bag.
"Deer grandma …"
Mom had been watching over my shoulder.
"There are two ways to spell 'dear'" she explained. "D-e-e-r is the animal; 'dear Grandma' would be d-e-a-r." I gave the big pink eraser a vigorous workout and brushed flakes of rubber and paper off the page.
"I am learning to write cursive …"
Mom helped with the spelling of "cursive"; seems that it didn't start with "k" after all …
"G's and F's are hard. L's are fun"
It took two hours, but I filled a page and a half of tablet paper with details about what I wanted for Christmas, how the school served the best peanut butter sandwiches and how I now had almost a dollar in my piggy bank.
That's when writer's block set in, so I ended my letter:
"I hope you right me a letter back. Love, Dan"
I tore the page out of the tablet and folded it neatly while Mom wrote Grandma's address on the front of the envelope and showed me where to put the stamp. I licked the back of a five-cent postage stamp that featured a sullen-looking Winston Churchill, placed it carefully in the right spot and pounded it twice with my fist to make sure it wouldn't come off.
"Dad will take it to the post office tomorrow," Mom said. "I'll bet Grandma writes you a letter as soon as she gets this."
I was sorely disappointed when I hurried home from school the next day and found I hadn't gotten a letter in the mail.
"Dad just mailed your letter this morning," Mom explained. "It might take a week … two or three days for your letter to get to Grandma's house, a day for her to write you a letter and mail it, and a couple of days for her letter to get back here."
I hurried home from school every day for the rest of the week, disappointment growing as each day failed to produce a letter.
But then, just over a week after writing my letter, I got home from school to find an envelope waiting on the kitchen counter. And on the front:
Mr. Dan Conradt
Rose Creek, MN
My first letter! And the first time anyone had ever called me Mr.!
I tore the end off the envelope and pulled out two pages of bright white stationary. Grandma's handwriting was already showing the shakiness that comes with age.
Thank you for your letter. You have very good penmanship … "
She wrote about the weather and how she was looking forward to seeing us at Christmas and how much she enjoyed my letter. And at the end:
"Write me another letter soon. Love, Grandma"
In all the years since, I've never gotten the same sense of satisfaction from a text or an e-mail.
I went straight to the kitchen table and opened the cover of my writing tablet.
How are you? I am fine.
We are learning farctions. They are hard …"