Villiers announces the MILER award winners for 1999

By Regina Villiers. Originally published January 5, 2000 in The Suburban Life, added March 17, 2020.

     My daughter-in-law said to me recently, “The post office people must love you.”

     I don’t know if they do.  I don’t think they know who I am, except to deliver my mail, but they should love me.  I’m sure I buy more stamps and write more letters than the average person.  I beat a path to their door.  But even more important, I extol them.  In a day when it’s fashionable to bash the postal service, you’ll hear me gibing thanks for them.  I love mail.  I always have.  Long before the Captain and Tennille, I sang, “Mr. Postman, is there a letter for me?”

     There is no communication between two people that is nicer than a hand-written letter.  E-mail doesn’t do it.  A letter is a gift of self.  E-mail is a mechanical note.

     For several years, I’ve written a column on mail around the holidays, and I started awarding a tongue-in-cheek honor to my best correspondent of the year, the MILER, (Most Interesting Letter Expressed to Regina).  It’s mythical.  The winner can’t put the trophy on the mantel.  You just have to see it in your mind-a large postage stamp atop a pencil.

     Each year when I do this column, I worry about the demise of mail.  I read dire reports that the world will go totally to e-mail and machines.  I’ve even read that children will no longer be taught to write, by hand.  I get depressed when I read these things.

     But this year, I’m feeling more optimistic.  For one thing, I find that my mail this year is way up, both in quantity and in quality.  I have received great mail this year, which makes me feel happy and fortunate.  I have sorted it into categories.  The stacks make me feel richer than Bill Gates.

     Past MILER winners have been the more mature writers.  The usual subject matter of this column would suggest that the readers would be more mature.  “It ain’t necessarily so,” to borrow the words of one composer.  Young people read it too.

     This year brought me lots of mail from youngster.  Most of my correspondents are younger than I.  This says to me that kids are still being taught in our schools to write letters.

     One of my young correspondents is a 10-year-old nephew in South Carolina.  Grant reads this column only if I send it to him.  When I do, he sends me one of his own stories.  In his last letter, he told me he had entered a writing contest.  “And I have two stories I can send you,” he wrote, “one about explorers and one about pirates.”  Writing letters can hone kids’ writing skills.

     I decided to focus on the young writers this year and to give this year’s MILER to one of the Madeira youngsters who have written.  Lined up before me are three stacks of letters.

     One stack contains Christmas cards and letters received in the past few days, and which are still coming in.  It’s important to remember that these kids are born to computers.  Most of them use computers before they set foot in a school, yet these notes are handwritten.

     Alex Shaw is the most computerized kid I know.  He could teach computers and does.  He’s always helping out the computer lab at Sellman School but his letter to me is handwritten.

     So is Michael Boehm’s letter.  Michael writes poetry and does appreciate the written word.

     Beth Neumann wrote me wonderful letter about the awesome experience of going to a BackStreet Boys concert on her birthday.  I marvel at he kids’ word usage in their letters.  In a list of things she had been doing, Beth listed “mother helping.”

     Allison Webb-Bohl wrote a long Christmas letter.  She told me about a report she had written for school, and she asked for help, one writer to another.  “What can I do to keep my writing form being dull?”  She asked.  “And how can I make it more interesting?”

     Hers is a challenge to answer.  I’ll give it my best shot.

     Benj Woodhouse wrote a beautiful letter to be treasured, as Benj himself is treasured. Kids don’t come any better.

     For the most artistic and most beautiful in appearance, the winner has to be Elyse Remenowsky.  You won’t find a fifth grader with more beautiful handwriting than Elyse, and she is an artist too.  Her thoughtful letter and the envelope are decorated in good taste.  It’s easy to see she put herself into it.

     There are also letters from Maura Messerly and Jay LeBlond in the stack.  More will arrive before year’s end.  Many include their pictures.  All are personal gifts from kids who know how to write letters.  All are keepers.

     It’s hard to pick a winner from these letters.  I decided to pick from the volume category, those who wrote the most times.  I picked co-winners.

     Brittany Barrett has been a young pen pal for two or three years.  She’s a sixth-grader at Sellman School.  Brittany writes me wonderful letters, and she has high ambitions.  She’d like to be an actress.  If she doesn’t make that, well then, she’ll probably try for President of the United States.

     She’s already working on her ambition by getting all the experience she can in school plays and skits.  She also likes to read mystery stories.

     The other top winner is Sam Williams.  Sam moved away from Madeira before school started this fall.  He writes regular letters back to me, telling me about his new home and his new school in Madison, Ind.  He wrote about the historic buildings in his town and sent me pictures of them.  He writes about the exciting happenings in his life-about making a spelling team to compete with other spelling teams around the state, about making his only two soccer goals ever, in the same game.

     So, Brittany and Sam, congratulations for being the top letter-writers of the year.  And to all you runners-up, you are winners too.  You win because you are writing.  As long as kids learn to write letters, the art will not die.