Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Pen Pals

When I was a kid my friend Carol announced haughtily that she had a pen pal. Huh? I was a very simple kid, unsophisticated in the ways of the world and I had no idea what a pen pal was. This was also a time in my life when I would never, ever admit that I didn't know something so I relied on bluffing.

"Oh, really," I said.

My mind raced to try and deduce what a pen pal might entail. Hmmmm, perhaps it's people who trade fountain pens back and forth? There was a pregnant pause. I didn't dare say a word lest I reveal my ignorance.

"Yes. She live in France and she's working on improving her English skills. How about you? Don't you have a pen pal yet?"

"No, no.... not yet," I answered. "I'm waiting to be assigned one. I'm hoping for someone from Borneo."

Yes, that was me, always grasping for straws and engaging in one-upmanship. I certainly had to choose something more exotic than France. Borneo did the trick.

"Wow, Borneo. Where's that at?" asked Carol.

See what happens when you engage in this type of behavior? You dig yourself a deeper hole with every syllable.

"Somewhere.... out there.... in the Pacific. Somewhere."

At that time, in the early 1960's, I believe you found pen pals by responding to tiny ads in classified section of the newspaper. But I was lazy and unmotivated to write to anyone, in Borneo or Indiana. So I never had a pen pal as a child.

But we grow up and we learn to admit when we don't know something. We get motivated and inspired to do things that we missed out on as a kid.

Thanks to the friendships I've made on the internet and real life, and the fact that I love, LOVE handwritten correspondences, I now have four pen pals. FOUR. I'm making up for lost time.

The interesting thing is my pen pals live in environments that are foreign to someone from the American midwest. Three of them live near oceans. Although Lake Michigan is only 45 miles away from here and it's such a large body of water that it creates it's own weather, it's freshwater and NOT the ocean. My other pen pal lives in a region with a very old and weathered mountain range. Again, a landscape as foreign as Mars to a flatlander.

My east coast pen pal lives near the Chesapeake Bay. (Is that spelled right? Doesn't look so.) She's a rock solid friend of many years. We've been through life's most horrendous experiences together. Some philosophers (and Abraham Lincoln) express the thought that in life you are just about as happy as you choose to be. But I'm here to tell you that sometimes life throws you some curves that are downright devastating. We just do the best we can.

My pen pal relationship with my weathered mountain friend is a one way street. She's a spunky 93 year old who is legally blind. She's led the most interesting life and is appreciative of any correspondence. I love Judy and it's a challenge to find interesting articles and photos and things to send her. We get together in person at least once a year and I treasure her.

I have two west coast pen pals and I love them dearly. They allow me to blow off steam and never make judgments. They listen!!! I love good listeners. One in my southern California Surfer Girl and the other is my wonderful Pacific Northwest friend, my listener supreme. They are both incredibly patient because I often take waaaaaayyyy too long to respond to e-mails.

I'm a post card girl. I love post cards and it's fun to choose interesing ones that I know my pen pals will like. Everybody loves to receive a "wish you were here" card, right?


With that in mind I'm going to do another one of my Post Card Projects. Come back tomorrow and learn how you can join in.

Till then, I'm sincerely yours.


My Kateness said...

Those pen-pal ads in the newspaper were the beginning of my letter-writing obsession, which has morphed into emailing and blogging. Yay for penpals!

Nan said...

My Mother had a pen pal when she was a teen in the 1940's. In the 60's, her pen pal arrived for a visit from England with her husband and son. There was even an article in the local newspaper about the pen pals meeting in person. They kept in touch over the years and when my mom passed away last year at 82, her pen pal was someone I personally called to let her know. She had often called during my mother's illness. How nice they had so many years to share in each others lives. Enjoy!

Kat said...

I was a Girl Scout leader for a long time. One of my favorite yearly activities was corresponding with troops from around the world each December and January. Our troop would send off 10-30 postcards to scouts in India, Australia, Japan, Scotland, etc., and get postcards back in return.
Sometimes I miss being a leader...

Anonymous said...

I am happy that you are posting again, I read yours first. Keep it up. Linda

Leslie T said...

This is a great topic. I love being a pen pal. My grandmother started it all for me, when I was 8 years old. She connected me with another 8 year old girl who was the granddaughter of my grandmother's friend. She lived in beautiful Lake Tahoe. We wrote to each other for years, and when I was 12 my grandmother took my sister and me to Lake Tahoe and I met my friend! We continued to write to each other for years and years, through high school. We lost touch and then reconnected a couple of times through the years, and then I completely lost track of her for a couple of decades. Through the wonder of the internet, I located her again about ten years ago. Since then we have gotten together twice, and we keep up through email. It's been great.
Thanks for coming up with this great post, Suzanne! A very rich topic!