A Love Letter To Love Letters — And A Call To Hang Them On The Wall

Dec 24, 2016
Originally published on January 25, 2017 4:02 pm

Modern correspondence is heavy on pixels, light on paper. It's fast and convenient — but doesn't it lack a little something?

Take a moment to consider the love letter.

And better yet, pull one out of storage — or print a sweet email, in the case of younger romances.

In 1972, one NPR listener made this pitch for publicizing those romantic souvenirs:

"Somewhere in a dusty box, do you have bundles of passionate love letters once sent to you by your spouse? Or favorite mementos of your courtship?

"Love is a wonderful thing. It deserves to be recalled and shared with the whole family. What if Mr. and Mrs. Browning had preferred secrecy to publication? Hang an old love letter on the kitchen wall for everyone to read or print a sign with any conversation you remember from the sweetest days of courtship. Make a mobile out of little mementos and brag that you were in love.

"It will do wonders to narrow any generation gap around the house. It will clarify the whos and whys of your family circle. And it will freshen your feelings today."

That ad was a submission to NPR's "Ads for Nicer Living" project — a campaign where we asked our audience to write noncommercial "commercials" for life's little pleasures.

It was a "runner-up," an ad script that was read on air but not fully produced. But the author, Jan Saecker, had another submission that got the full sound-effects-and-music treatment — an ad for cumulus clouds.

After Saecker's paean to love letters made it on the air, NPR's Susan Stamberg called her up to chat about her inspiration, both for the clouds and the love letters.

"I've noticed a certain pattern in the entries," Susan said. "People are writing about nature and the kind of peace and tranquility that nature brings, and there's something to me a little moving and very haunting about that, the idea that all of us are looking for a sense of peace, a sense of inner harmony. Do you have any reactions to that? Do you think this is a kind of wish fulfillment that people are writing down in their commercials or is it in fact commercials for things that really do exist in their lives?"

"That's a question that's tough to answer, but I can make a few guesses. In my case, it's what I have — including a conviction that the people upstairs are helping," Saecker said. "They provide the trees and tulips and water for wading, and even the love and lovers to write love letters, and it's our job to enjoy it."

And, she said said, just participating in the project was a joy of its own.

"Writing commercials for nicer living is a good way to keep our living nicer," Saecker said. "That's a commercial for your commercial."

Want to keep your living nicer? We've brought the project back for 2017, and we're accepting submissions right now. Think of what brings you joy, and write a 120-word script about why it's so great.

We'll be picking five entries and producing them for air.

Submit your idea below. (On mobile? Visit npr.org/nicer.)

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