What Do You Do With Old Love Letters?

Steve Hartman's face in a heart-shaped valentine theme

In classrooms across America today, kids were pouring their little hearts out - trying to think of just the right words to make that special someone feel that special something.

"You are so fun and awesome to hang out with," one little girl said as she read a valentine out loud.

It feels good to give a note like that, but feels even better - to get one.

"It makes you feel nice inside, and warm," one student told me.

Whether you saved your first love note or - like me - saved all of them, chances are you've got at least a few stashed somewhere. The question is why? Why break up with someone but keep their mail? And if you do save old love letters, what are you supposed to do with them once you get married?

I posed that question to Steve Lewis - a Houston investment advisor. He and his wife Allison Triarsi are about as happily married as they come. Which is why, for him, the answer was easy.

"I remember actually shredding," Lewis said. "I said I don't need this and move on."

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It's a different story for his wife however. Allison is a reporter and anchor at the CBS affiliate in Houston.

When she told me she had some old love letters, I was very curious to see if she'd saved any from this one old boyfriend in particular - a guy she dated almost 15 years ago and hasn't seen since - me.

Pointing to one of the old notes I sent her, Allison said, "Look how you wrote the sentences, 'the key to my heart.' How can you throw that away?"

How can she? How can I?

I 've got at least a couple dozen notes from Allison. Some were really silly, and some really heartfelt.

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Bill Shapiro put together a book called Other People's Love Letters. I showed him the ones I got from Alison and other past loves.

"I think it's really important to save the past, and save love letters," Shapiro said. "I don't know how you could possibly get rid of these. Love letters are these totally biased time capsule where people remember you the way you want to be remembered."

"How could I not save something where somebody thought I was all of these things," Allison asked me. "There are times when i know I'm not these things."

"But when when do you you look at it," Lewis asked jokingly. "Am I in New York on a business trip and do you think "this would be a good time."

He made some good points. But before I asked to borrow his shredder, I asked one him why he really thought I should get rid of those letters.

"Honestly, I kind of like you now - so I don't care," he said.

After the interview, Steve even took me out to dinner. The guy is a great sport, second only to my wife, Andrea, who has no problems with my collection.

Although she did get a little angry when I came home and accidentally called her Allison.

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.