Quick as deer cross an Arkansas meadow, my father answered, "letters," and then sighed with a smile, "real letters."
Email wasn't mail to him.
When I got back to the UK, I decided that no matter how long dad had left to live; I would write him a letter every single week. As I was fresh out of any writing paper, I headed down to the post office in our town out in the Surrey Hills and spoke to the young clerk behind the counter.
"Do you have any blue air mail letters? The kind you fold over and come ready stamped?"
I asked, thinking I hadn't seen any in a very long time.
If it had been awhile since I had seen this sort of easy-to- write-stationery; the young woman looked at me as if she had never, ever seen anything that remotely resembled what I was trying to describe with the help of hand gestures. I felt like I was playing charades.
"Stamp already on."
Speechless, the young lady went to the back of the post office and brought out the old manager. He was my age, and with a gleam in his eye he put forth a packet of six blue air mail blank letters. "This what you mean?"
"Oh yes," so relieved that I hadn't just dreamed this up.
"Enjoy," he said, "it's the last one. They don't make them anymore."
If it wasn't for the lump in my throat, I would have told him it was for my father who did not have long to live and that at my family reunion my dad had taken a moment to let m know how much he had enjoyed my old letters. He had loved the way I had described living in a foreign country and how I was getting on with raising two young children. It was then and there I had said I would try to write when I got back to England.
"A real one?" he had asked.
"Paper and all, dad."
So, the first step in writing a real letter is deciding to write on real paper. I can no longer select the easy option of what they used to call an "aerogramme," one of those one page fold up blue pieces of thin paper. I now order Basildon Bond blue on Amazon, including matching envelopes. Perhaps you will choose beautiful Crane stationery, or simply take a sheet from the computer printer (not many print offs these days anyway).
Just make it real. Write a Letter for Valentine's Day. And sign-up for Step 2!