Saturday, January 6, 2018

Cadillacs with Wings

When I was in summer camp, back in the days when Cadillacs had wings, there was rest hour after lunch. On my bed in my bunk, I had to write a letter home telling of my day and of the days to come. It was an unwelcome chore but I know my mom and dad loved each and every note. More than half a century later, going through the contents of my mom's apartment after her death, I came upon boxes of those meaningless letters that had so much more meaning than I could ever imagine.

Fast forward from camp to college. I used to wait my turn in the hall of my dorm to make my Sunday call home, telling of my day and the days to come. It was an unwelcome chore but I know my mom and dad loved each and every call. My meaningless prattle had so much more meaning than I could ever imagine.

As we enter 2018 it seems to me that the handwritten letter and the telephone call are soon to be as extinct as the dinosaur. I can't remember the last occasion where I took pen and paper out to express my thoughts to another (invitations and condolences excepted). Today even email seems sure to become an anachronism and soon a tweet will be recalled principally as something that served as predicate for one very  strange President's self destruction. And the phone. If phone booths can only be found in museums, I can well imagine a day when calling as a means of expressing oneself may be as relevant as the horse and buggy.

That is why this week was so different.

I have been chasing my own tail for near a decade now, writing letters, no, sending emails to the New York Times expressing my opinion on anything and just about everything. And from time to time my words have found their way into print. This past week it happened again.

Normally, this achievement has been met with the sound of one hand clapping. The public at large has found it wholly uncalled for to take the time and effort to slap me on the back, or even in the face, for my efforts. But this time, well let me tell you about this time.

On the morning my thoughts appeared for general consumption a message was left on my office phone. If I was the Robert Nussbaum who said the things that Robert Nussbaum said congratulations for a job well done. In the days that followed two more calls came in. And then two letters. All expressing gratitude for my giving expression to their thoughts and beliefs.

All of these people had gone our of their way to track me down (my letters list my address in a different town, the one in which I reside, not where I work). And for those who wrote, in long hand (is that even a thing anymore?) I imagined them licking the envelope (does anyone even do that any more) and delivering their writing to the mailbox (or does every one just leave it for the mailman?).

To me, it was like receiving that post card from camp or the call from the college dorm. The ones in which the thrill on the receiving end was more than the sender could ever contemplate.

I made sure to call each person who had contacted me, to thank them for the most welcome surprise and to congratulate them for doing something that took such effort. I think each one was happy to hear from me, if a little bit unsure whether this was a kind of reverse stalking.

I reached out to one of the letters editors at the Times to inform her as to what had transpired. And to note one other fact. Each person who had called or written was as old or older than me, at least two well over eighty years of age. 

It suggested two things to me. First, that many people stay engaged and active participants in this universe for as long as they are able. And the other was that the younger generations, and those that come hereafter, would never think to undertake the task that these senior citizens had just completed. 

Thus there was joy, tinged with sadness in my analysis of the accolades that had come my way.

There is a certain connection that I believe is lost through use of computers (whether on a desk or in one's hand) Emails, tweets, texts seem almost disembodied, less person to person, less an act of joint participation. Maybe it is just me being out of touch, a relic, but I would suggest I am not alone in my sentiment.

I do not have grandchildren yet, but if some day I am fortunate enough for that to occur and if one day, in a summer future, there is a postcard in my mailbox (if mailboxes still exist) just understand that the tears in my eyes will be in knowing that Cadillacs still have wings.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Your writing moves people in different ways. For younger readers, they will wrestle with what you have to say, eventually coming to terms with the fact you are right. The older readers are all doing a mental "happy dance" each time they read an article you have written, already knowing you are right. All are grateful--RE

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful - on every level!

....and that is why I always call my grandkids on the phone and send them real cards and notes for their birthdays...and lick every envelope with love!

Maybe there is something to the fact that Dovid is almost 12 and still doesn’t have a phone.....

I also like sneakers that tie and non digital watches!


Anonymous said...

Loved it-another beauty!


Anonymous said...

I appreciate and enjoy ( and agree with!) all you write. Keep it up👏👏


Anonymous said...

I have kept every letter my grandfather wrote to me when I was at camp and every letter or post card (some with nothing written -didn't know from which kid) that was sent to us when they were at camp


Anonymous said...

A very well written story.