Who Are The Johnsons?

Return to Sender

When Marathon Girl and I moved into our home five years ago, we went through the inevitable process of receiving mail that hadn’t been forwarded to the previous owner. We had her new address and forwarded the mail on to her. After a few months, we stopped getting her mail.

Then Christmas came. Holiday cards arrived in our mail box not only to her but two cards address to the Johnson Family. We had no idea who the Johnson Family was but figured it was the owner before the woman who sold her house to us. We Return to Sender on the cards for the Johnsons saying they were no longer at this address.

We forgot all about the Johnson Family until the next Christmas. Once again two Christmas cards arrived for the Johnson Family. And though Marathon Girl and I weren’t 100% sure, we were fairly certain that they were the same two families that sent cards the year before. Once again we sent them back and went about with our lives.

We’ve now spent five Christmases in our home. And each year two cards arrive for the Johnson Family arrive from the same two families. The last two years we haven’t bothered returning them. Whoever sends these cards either don’t get the cards back in the mail or have lost touch with the Johnson Family to the point where five plus years have passed and they have no idea where the Johnson Family lives. If it’s the latter reason, I’m somewhat surprised. In an era of email and social networking, it’s not hard to keep in touch with people or, at the very least, notifying them that you’ve moved. Our lives take us in a hundred different directions making it impossible to keep in touch with everyone. But you’d think after (at least) five years, you’d either find a way to contact them or hear through the grapevine that they moved.

As a writer, a collector of stories, and one who is fascinated by human choices and behavior, I want to know who these families are and what their ties are to the Johnson Family. Were they neighbors? Childhood friends? Casual acquaintances? Ex-lovers? There's a story here and the storyteller in me wants to tell it. But the Johnson Family is just a name on an envelope. With no forwarding address, their story will never be told but maybe, just maybe, the seeds of a book have been planted.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

A Handwritten Letter

I just did something most people don’t do anymore.

I wrote a letter.

A real, honest-to-goodness letter.

You know, the kind that involves putting down your thoughts on paper, putting said thoughts in an envelope, attaching a stamp and leaving it for the mailman.

It’s something I rarely do anymore.

And you know what, I miss it.

There’s something real about holding a piece of paper in your hand that someone has taken the time to pen to paper and compose their thoughts. I like it better than email.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t go back to just stamps and letters. I love being able to send photos of the kids to family members or chapters of my book to friends for their feedback at a click of a button. I like being able to access it wherever life takes me. And I like that friends and family to do the same to me.

But there’s just something special about seeing information written on the envelope, opening a the envelope, and seeing a page or two of handwritten content that just makes the experience so much more personal than seeing the same message from someone pop into your inbox. Anyone can type. Who actually takes the time to think about what they want to say then actually use a pen to compose their thoughts and put in the mailbox these days. That’s so much effort!

I don’t know what it is about letters I like.

Maybe it’s the personal touch.

Maybe it’s the fact that in the days before email I was a prolific letter writer.

Maybe it’s the handwritten letter I received from an old friend earlier this week that prompted me to respond in kind.

Whatever the reason, today I find myself wishing there were more letters in my mailbox and fewer emails in my inbox.