A new blogger that I've been following recently wrote about having her first pen pal. I started to reflect on some of my past and present pen pals and realized that I'm pretty blessed in this department. There is something about receiving real mail. An actual card or letter. It's sad that mail is starting to be grouped in the "old-fashioned" category. What with the advent of email and all manner of social networking, younger generations may one day relegate the post office. Personally, I hope I'm not around when that day comes. I stubbornly cling to stationary and Hallmark and will defend the etiquette of writing Thank You cards until my dying day. (This is similar to my zeal for daily newspapers and magazine subscriptions. I will save print media one person at a time!)
I have had 3 main pen pals in my lifetime, along with the odd letter back and forth post-camp and freshman year of college. First, there was Debbie. Our 3rd grade classes exchanged letters and she and I were matched together. I envisioned her life in California as full of sunshine and time at the beach and the zoo. Little did I know that a year later her family would move to my hometown! Her adopted grandmother was a teacher at my school and friends with my mom. Miss Bingham, or Gladys as I like to call her, arranged for Debbie and I to meet before school started so she would know one friendly face. Debbie became one of my childhood best friends. Isn't it funny how things work out? We went to different high schools and lost touch during college. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we're in touch again.
The next pen pal was set up by my mom and his mom. They met at a craft show they were in, realized they had kids that were both sophomores in high school, and put their matchmaking skills to the test. We wrote back and forth for almost a year but I think I dropped the "writing back" ball in the end. It was fun to get his letters and learn about his life, as well as share mine. Of course I wondered whether love was in the air, and maybe he did too, but we'll never know.
The third pen pal is my dear friend Allison. We went to high school and youth group together, at least until her family moved up to Wisconsin after our sophomore year of high school. We started writing letters back and forth. And when I say letters, I really mean tomes. I actually found a box full of those letters before I moved (up until recently I had kept every single card and letter I'd ever received.) It was hilarious to reread our highs and lows, the boy drama, the escapades. I also found several mentions of her now-husband when they were first getting to know each other. Who would have thought? Allison and I wrote each other all through high school and I think part of college. Then life got busy or we switched to email. Aside from a couple of visits in college, we grew apart. Just like Debbie though, Allison and I reconnected on Facebook. She found this blog. Shortly before my 30th birthday, she emailed me and asked for my address. I was intrigued but then forgot about it as my mom and I headed off to North Carolina. When I returned, I found a beautiful card from Allison. She directly touched on some of the things I'd expressed here. She let me know what my friendship had meant to her in high school, especially since we lived in different states. She encouraged me as I faced the Big 3-0. I was so moved! Here we were connecting through the mail once again. I suggested we renew our pen pal-ship and she agreed. (Thanks, Allison!) We don't write as frequently as we did in high school and the letters are definitely shorter but I think they are also richer in their depth. We discuss our hopes and fears, what God has been teaching us, and more. I just received Allison's latest a couple of days ago. It was such a thrill to see it in the mailbox! Total confession: I have this horrible stationary I'm trying to get rid of right now. It has a picture of Jesus as a shepherd in the corner and a huge box of it was gifted to me for high school graduation. What about an 18 year old girl implies that she would enjoy "grandma" stationary? There have been few occasions for me to delve into that particular supply. In any case, Allison has kindly agreed to let me use it up on her. And no, that's not the real reason I suggested we become pen pals again!
The beauty of a written card and letter is that they imply time and effort. Unless you're using pencil, you can't delete the written word. I think more about what I'm going to write before I put pen to paper. Yes, you can scribble out a mistake but then it mars the stationary. Even the stationary you choose can be an expression of your personality. For instance, I wouldn't mind owning this or this or even this. A couple of former coworkers and friends back home would also like to trade snail mail. I owe replies to a couple of them already. I say, the more pen pals the merrier!