Our Southern Mamas Love Their Stationery

A handwritten note on pretty paper beats an email any day of the week.

In my dream life, I don't hastily hammer out emails and text messages or keep up with my dearest friends on Facebook. I sit at an elegant secretary desk next to a big window overlooking my well-tended cottage garden (let's go ahead and give it a fountain and reflecting pool while we're at it). I sip tea from a china cup (let's say it's Lady Carlyle) while writing thoughtful, witty, heart-felt letters on feminine, traditional stationery or maybe something floral (from Rifle Paper Co., of course). My beloved orange cat, Cheeto, remains lazily curled in his favorite nap chair (instead of tromping back and forth over my iMac keyboard while I'm trying to write).

woman writing letters
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Such is the life of my letter-writing dreams—dreams I inherited from my Southern Mama. The difference is, she makes them come true, at least to an extent. (She can live without the reflecting pool and she's a coffee drinker.) She, like many a Southern Mama, loves stationery because she loves writing to the people she cares about. She buys boxes and boxes of Christmas cards in advance, as well as get-well cards for members of her Sunday School class and thank-you notes for those who might do her a kindness at some point in the future and blank cards to write her nieces just because.

My mother—and she's not alone among Southern women—has a fondness for florals, both live and in print. When it comes to stationery for moms, given a choice between blank writing papers and something with a little cluster of roses in one corner, Mama will pick the roses. No pun intended.

All of my life, she has underlined words in the carefully selected greeting cards she sends me, as in "Happy Birthday to the sweetest [underlined] daughter in the world [underlined]!" Once, I teased her about the underlining, so the next time she sent me a card, she didn't do it. WHAT???? I had a complete come-apart. I apologized profusely and made her promise never again to send me a card without underlining. Thank goodness she resumed.

I had forgotten the special pleasure of writing letters until my "baby" cousin joined the Army and wasn't allowed to receive anything but snail mail during basic training. And I have to say, it made me remember the vast difference between a letter—written on real paper and mailed in a real envelope to a real mailbox—and anything electronic.

The English poet Lord Byron described letter writing as "the only device for combining solitude with good company."

I would never presume to one-up Lord Byron. But I would add that combining solitude with good company on pretty paper is the stuff Southern Mamas are made of.

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