by Maddie Mullen
Photo by Maddie Mullen

 

I recently took a trip to the post office to mail a check to my dad. Those are two things that most millennials don’t seem to be doing. I don’t think many of my friends even own a check book. But I do.

I use checks for paying my rent. I just send a check in a little envelope with a stamp to my roommate’s parents and voilà! Magical, but not really. The United States Postal System isn’t that amazing, but regardless there is something fun about taking the time to write something down.

I know that I could easily do the same tasks on my phone. I have the Wells Fargo app, which is super convenient. I use it to deposit checks, pay bills and easily view my statements, you know, all that adult stuff. However, sending money wasn’t quite as easy. The money order app that Wells Fargo is teamed up with was the problem.

Zelle is a digital payment network that many of the top banks in the country us to allow their customers to easily send money to each other. There are other popular apps out there, like Venmo, Cash App, and PayPal. My roommate pays me instantly for utilities by using Zelle, which I enjoy because it appears in my account right away.

However, when I tried to send money to my dad, it wasn’t so seamless. My dad doesn’t have any bank accounts with the banks that use Zelle, so he obviously didn’t receive the money. I had to wait two weeks for the money transfer to be sent back to my account.

So, after my money was done floating around somewhere and I got it back, I decided to send it the old-fashioned way.

I wrote the check and a sweet note to my dad and sealed it in a stationary set I got from my great aunt when I was in middle school. I haven’t used it much since I don’t write that many letters. No one really does. Why would people my age be writing letters?

There are emails, texts, and instant messages we can send out and receive within seconds. Digital correspondence is faster and we’re finding new ways to convey our emotions and meanings. Emojis depict how were feeling. GIFs and memes are sent to make a recipient laugh or smile. Letters aren’t able to do this in the same way, but what they do is still something special.

I remember learning how to address a letter and ingraining my home address in my head. My teacher told us to always start with a greeting, a “Dear” or “Hello,” and, of course, to always end it with a polite parting phrase like “Love” or “Sincerely.” We also learned how to write checks. Signing my signature was my favorite part. It felt official and important. We practiced writing checks in our check books and making them for random amounts to various things. Third-grade me wrote a $17-dollar check for ice cream.

I also remember visiting my grandparents’ house and sleeping in my mom’s teenage bedroom. Her dresser was littered with knick-knacks and photos from high school and in a drawer, under some socks, were letters my mom and dad sent to each other. I recognized my dad’s sloppy handwriting and my mom used her old nickname, Ebeth. But the letters were written when my parents were different people. They were high school sweethearts. And their love letter writing days are gone.

Letters are sweet and I long for the nostalgic feel of licking an envelope closed or tearing one open. They are something I miss, because the purpose of letters is not the same anymore. I don’t have to write a letter to my sister if I want to tell her how I am and ask her how she is. I can just FaceTime her and talk like we’re walking around the neighborhood.

Thankfully, my grandma’s letters are still the same. Yes, I still get holiday and birthday cards from my grandma with money in them. They used to be $5 when I was a kid, then $10 when I was in high school and now they are a sweet $20. Every Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s, St. Patricks and Easter, I get a colorful envelope from Leavenworth, Kan. and inside is a card with generic phrases written by a stranger and underlined by my grandmother. And sometimes, she double underlines when she wants to emphasize it. She signs them for both her and my grandpa and always with “lots of love”.

I love receiving these letters.

The letter I wrote to my father was simple. Just a “Thanks, Dad! I love you!” and a signed check.

I went to the post office to send out my letter and the post office was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday at 2 p.m. There was long line with only two workers behind the counter. The south-facing windows and the sun shining in created a greenhouse-like heat in the small building. The woman in front of me fanned herself with an envelope, and the gentleman in front of her tapped his polished shoes. The wait irritated me but only for a bit. It’s not like it was an easier wait for anyone else in line, and the poor workers could only handle so much. They talked in low, calming tones and there was jazzy music playing in the background. All I could do while waiting was gaze around and revel in the U.S. Postal Service. They work through rain, snow and boring Tuesday afternoons.

A third worker finally appeared from a back room and got the line moving. I paid for the postage and continued my day. My letter was on its way to my dad’s mailbox, which had been rebuilt after a neighbor backed into it with their car.

As long as the process took, I liked having to slow down. In a world that’s so instant, I didn’t mind having to do things that take time. I receive so many emails a day and a large number of them go unread. I’m so absent-minded when it comes to communicating on my phone. Half the calls I get are from robotic voices soliciting something. Now, I only answer when it’s from a number I recognize.

I feel as though technology has made it easier to connect, but harder to communicate in meaningful ways. Writing out something is so personal. I usually reserve writing for journal entries and scrawling notes. I hope that the postal service doesn’t disappear, and I don’t want letters to fade away. But I appreciate getting a letter, and checks are always nice to get, too.