A few weeks ago I visited my mother in the south of France. By moving around some furniture at her place we stumbled upon a bundle of old letters. Letters written by long gone friends from right after the War, i.e., around 1946, for example from young American soldiers who were in Paris at the time when my mother was a student there. It was touching and also nostalgic to look at these old envelopes, written in a style and in a handwriting that that is really not of this time and age any more. But it is part of my mother’s life and hence, in some way, of mine, too.
However: what will I show to my son when I reach my mother’s age? I actually did write a some letters to my wife; after all, our relationship precedes the e-mail era. But we certainly do not do it any more. And my son’s generation clearly does not even know what it means to write handwritten letters to friends or family. It is all skype and facebook and email: although these can be archived, these messages are nevertheless inherently ephemeral. What will he show to his children? We seem to loose something essential… and I am not sure what to put in its place.