Dear … Whomever

Whenever I receive one of those “Dear Friends and Family” holiday greetings each Christmas, my memory is drawn immediately to my late mother-in-law.

Why? Well, because she was a relentless writer of letters to what she called her network of “pen friends.”

I want to stipulate something up front: I don’t toss those “Dear Current Resident” letters away when they come from loved ones. I read them. Some of them are rather interesting. For instance, I learned this week that one of my cousins has moved from Denver to North Carolina and that another of my cousins is now what he calls himself a “grand dude.”

However, my memory of my mother-in-law makes me smile when I get these letters.

She insisted on writing original compositions. She also insisted on receiving them. If she got anything that smelled like a “form letter,” she would toss the letter into the trash and scratch the individual from her “pen friend” network.

Her motto, and I paraphrase it broadly here: If you don’t care enough to send me an original letter in return for those I send to you, then you are not welcome to be a pen friend to me.

Her letter-writing kept her mind alert for many years after she retired at age 72 from her job at a Portland, Ore., newspaper. Indeed, the time she would take to write the letters — with her own hand, I hasten to add — kept her active and engaged in her surroundings.

We need more of that these days. Not less of it.