My Personal Time Capsule


2020 as a waffle

I’ve heard 2020 described as a “Coronacoaster” and that absolutely captures my own experience. I’m fine and dandy one day, then in a mental trough another. 2020—the year of emotional whiplash.

It’s easy to get stuck in those down times, but finding little joys in your days and weeks can help your emotions chug up from the abyss to the summit once again. Last Saturday I was handed one of those joys.


Whatever could this be?

The mail carrier dropped off this curious package—an overstuffed bubble mailer. The return address revealed that it was from one of my college roommates. We stay in touch via social media but aren’t in the habit of sending each other things so I had a swirl of question marks floating over my head, just like in a comic strip.

Tearing into the mailer revealed this…


More question marks.

A note from her quickly solved the mystery.

“Hi, Mary! I just spent 4 days cleaning out cases of memorabilia from the upstairs bedroom to pass some time in these boring Covid days. I happened upon loads of letters from the 80’s and thought you would get a kick out of reading some of yours!”

My own nearly forty-year-old letters were being handed back to me. What a surprise gift! What a cool chance to look back at twentysomething Mary—my handwriting, my joys, challenges, and anxieties. Here they are—pages and pages of the day-to-day details of my post-college life as I made my way in a new state and in a new job. They document a fresh start that was as exciting as it was terrifying.


I was surprised to see that a few letters were written with a fountain pen because I have no memory of owning one back then. My handwriting is better than I remember and is the seed of how I write today. I’ve definitely made some progress in that regard over these forty-ish years.


It’s embarrassing to misspell “embarrassing.”

I do remember having a “fancy” electronic typewriter—my pride and joy—that displayed a few lines of text before printing. That sleek machine felt like the pinnacle of modern technology in the early 80’s—at least to me.


Bonnie Raitt performed at the college where I now work. How’s that for the circle of life?

The Bonnie Raitt concert mentioned in this letter cost me a mere $5.00 because my cousin was a student at the college and got me in with his ID. What a steal, even then. Thanks to this letter, the memories of her performance are as fresh as if I were standing in that crowded gym at this very moment. Such is the power of the written word.


I had no idea I’d written enough letters to overstuff a bubble mailer, but what else was there to do back then without computers, phones, internet, or cable TV? My stereo system (another pride and joy) was constantly blasting Pat Benatar, Heart, Sinead O’Connor, and the Eurythmics—those powerful 80’s women. That era will always represent my favorite music because it was a huge part of my quiet little life.

I look forward to arranging these letters by date and reading about Mary. That Mary. Surely there will be some surprises, some cringes, and some laughs.

I’ll always treasure this personal time capsule. What a surprise. What a joy.

8 thoughts on “My Personal Time Capsule

  1. Wow, what an amazing gift! When I cleared out my parents’ house (where I grew up) after my mom died, I found bags and boxes of letters that friends had written to me in middle school (no text then, so that was our off-hours socializing). I was still in touch with a few of them, so I put together fat packets just like this and sent them off! All got back to me later saying how much they appreciated the time capsules.

    • So great, Tina! I save all of the cards and letters I receive so I plan to return the favor someday. What a fun and eye-opening gift to receive!

  2. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – August 2, 2020 | Fountain Pen Quest

  3. Wow – what an amazing post, Mary, and what a treasure!!! It’s like having found an old diary (in a sense). Please do another post once you’ve read through all of your letters and let us know what your thoughts are.

  4. I have written on the topic of conserving the art of letter writing. How fascinating it must have been for you to read your letters again. I love the idea. I may do this with my husband and children. One never knows what can happen and this is an excellent way of keeping in touch with the past. As you may know the USPS is now being compromised and if we do not do something about it letter writing may truly be a thing of the past. I urge everyone to write a note to your mail carrier #wecareUSPS to let them know we support the most sacred of institutions. Thanks for this uplifting post. Stay safe!

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