The Suitcase Lady

Wired

March 25, 2014, 10:06 pm

My  mother-in-law, Vera, sent e-mail messages before the computer was invented.  They were called letters, but I recently realized that she probably was one of the inventors of our modern messaging style.

She would write, “The birds messed up the window of the Maverick again this morning. ha ha”. (My mother-in-law was not a lover of wildlife.)  Substitute the smiley face emoticon for the “ha ha” and you have a classic e-mail or Facebook entry.

Another example: “I’ve been grocery shopping at 5:00 AM lately. ha ha”. The translation to that would be “It’s been 100 degrees in Tucson every day and I need to get the ice cream home early or it will melt.”

Vera also was in the vanguard of universal communication. She regarded every letter, to whomever it was addressed, to be available to everyone in the universe. This concept was a shock to me. In my family, a letter was an extremely private missive to be opened and read only by the person whose name was on the envelope. To violate this was the equivalent of a mortal sin.

My mother-in-law kept her mail next to her recliner. She would cheerfully pass around letters for her visitors to peruse. She would also include other people’s letters when she mailed her own letters to us. In other words, she had attachments. I quickly understood that when I wrote to her, I also was writing to the world at large. My letter would go viral.

When I started doing e-mail, my husband, an IT guy, wisely emphasized that I should regard absolutely nothing that I wrote on my computer as private. “I know,” I told him, “your mom taught me that many years ago.”

Post Script: Vera did get a Web TV, a gift from her techie grandchildren, when she was in her eighties. Although she had never typed in her life, she took to it like that proverbial duck to water. ha ha :)

pen

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