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UNSENT LETTER IS STILL USABLE - WITH A FEW MINOR MODIFICATIONS

I ran across a letter recently that I had started and never finished. With a little updating, the letter was fixable and I wouldn't have to agonize over composing a new one:

"Dear Lois: Sorry I haven't written sooner, but the war (make that tension in Central America) has made us crazy. I don't know how you've managed with the acute shortage of nylons (scratch that and substitute Retin A)."Good news from the home front. Our baby is finally toilet-trained (insert employed). We thought it would never happen. Every day I stood in the bathroom, ran water and showed slides of Lake Erie. He finally got the idea. (Add a line: He's a marine biologist.)

"You know how I hate to write letters, but I think I could write a book if I ever got a typewriter. (Insert word processor.) I've heard the more you write, the easier it gets. (Add ha, ha.)

"I know you're busy. Did you have a great birthday? Thirty (substitute between estrogen and death) isn't so bad. Please don't feel you have to sit right down and dash off a response to this letter on the very day you get it. Letters are like wine. I think Red Skelton (substitute Eddie Murphy) said that.

"Yours till Niagara Falls. (Make it nuclear wastes.) . . ."

OK, so we're not talking Elizabeth Barrett Browning here, but I hate to write letters. It's not as if I'm one of those people who write Christmas newsletters and have great things to report. My kids never conducted the Cleveland Symphony at age 9, nor did my husband spend his summer as a mercenary. We're just boring people! I feel like the friend of my son who spent his entire puberty at our house. Occasionally I'd say, "Call your mother," and he'd go to the phone, dial, mumble "I'm alive," and hang up.

That's the way it is with us. There's never anything dramatic to report about our lives that is worth 25 cents postage. I know when people hear from me they all want to pitch in and buy me a charisma implant.

Psychologists say people who don't like to write letters are very private and resist sharing their personal emotions with other people. That's so much more civilized than saying they're lazy.

Bad news. I just got my revamped letter back, stamped "Addressee has moved. No forwarding address." Wouldn't you have thought Lois could have written!