Friday, February 10, 2012

The Round Robin and the Art of Keeping in Touch

Earlier, I had blogged about the Month of Letters project I had heard about through a fellow blogger.

The idea was to write 24 letters (hard letters, though the mail) during the month of February.  Or, at least, mail something.

It was a good idea but I didn't sign up.  But it did bring back memories of a letter writing tradition my father's side of the family participated in for a number of years.  And why trying to start it up again several years ago just didn't work out.

This project was called The Round Robin.  My father, who would be 97 if he was still alive, was one of six children.  As adults, they went their separate ways.  My Dad and two siblings stayed in the New York City area (they grew up in Brooklyn). One moved to Albany, one moved to Tampa, FL and one ended up first in Texas and later in Iowa.  Only one of them, the youngest, is still alive and is in his late 80's.

To stay in touch (as telephoning, even someone in another part of New York City, was so expensive back then), they wrote letters.  I don't know who started The Round Robin but the point was:  You wrote a letter, put it in a big envelope with everyone else's letter. When the packet got to you, you replaced your old letter with a current letter, and then sent it on.  The Robin's route was always the same.

By the time I was a teenager, I had taken over from my Dad.  So it was me, writing to five aunts and uncles.  I looked forward to getting those letters and I loved responding for my Dad.  But each time, the Robin packet would take longer and longer to come.  Finally, the Robin stopped.  In the meantime, I had grown up and had better things to do.  Time passed....lots of time.

About 5 years ago, I thought it would be a really good idea to start up the Robin again.   My Dad and his 5 brothers/sisters had a total of 12 children between them. (I am an only child.)  I contacted my 11 first cousins and almost all of them were eager to join in on Robin 2.0..  The oldest cousins at that point were near 60, the youngest were in their 40's.  All of us were of the last letter writing generation.  In fact, several of my cousins have never felt comfortable with computers.  (Guess I didn't inherit those genes.  My spouse thinks my computer is grafted to my body.)

Another cousin, whose grandmother and my grandmother were sisters, joined our Robin group.

The last of my father's siblings, an uncle, wanted to join, too, but...guess what happened.  The first packet took a year to make the rounds.  The second packet never made it back to me.  He never had a chance to write a letter-one that I saw, anyway.

And what about the generation of our children?  Between the 12 of us, we have 11 children.  Many of them are young adults, including my son.  None of them were interested in the Robin.

I have finally decided the Robin is not viable.  Not dead, mind you.  Just busy sunning him or herself in Florida, or Tunisia, or somewhere else more pleasant than upstate NY, while most of us keep in touch by email or Facebook.

Know how my 80-something communicates with his three children?  Skype and email.  And I guess that's the point of this blog post.

Yes.  Letter writing has died out because....dare I say it?  There are now better ways to communicate.  Sad but true.

I wish the Month of Letters project the best, but I wonder how many of those people will still write to each other when February fades into March.

What do you think?  Did any of you have a family letter  packet like the Round Robin?  Do any of you keep in touch with siblings or cousins by snail mail nowadays?


  1. I hadn't wrote a letter in almost a decade when I made a goal for this month to write letters. So far I've made 6 hand made Valentine Day's cards which I mailed via snail mail. I would't say the writing letters is dead or that there are better ways to do it. Not better, just faster. And nowadays people want to do everything fast. When I was in my early 20's and living by myself I didn't have a phone in 5 years. The only way to keep in contact with my family was to write letters. - Nowadays it's hard to even imagine not having a phone! -Thanks for posting this. It was interesting!

  2. I LOVE the idea of the Round Robin. So cool. I actually have enjoyed writing letters in February, but I love letters. I don't usually write one a day, but I generally put several in the mail in a month and always send thank you notes.

  3. I decided to step back and see if any of my cousins can get the Round Robin back off the ground. If they can, I will let my blog readers now. Thank you both for posting, Armi and Tia.


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