I’m not that old but when I was a kid, I had a penpal. The kind of penpal whose response I awaited eagerly for in my mailbox. For weeks I greeted the postman with hope and smiles only to be completely dismayed when all I got was an armful of brochures, bills and Sedano’s flyers. By the time my penpals response finally came in the mail, I had completely forgotten what I wrote about and wished I had remembered to make a photocopy of my original letter.
Today the handwritten note is as dead as dinosaurs. I don’t even know of any young person with legible, let alone beautiful, handwriting. For a while there, it was more exciting to receive an email than it was a handwritten note. “You’ve got mail” was a glorious sound. Now I mute the computer volume to check the spammy emails I have delivered to my AOL account. And once again, I check my mailbox filled with hope and excitement for a letter from my 8 year old penpal, Mary.
I regressed and found myself a penpal. A kid one. I wanted to share the exhilaration of receiving an envelope with your name and a stamp on it. I bought expensive stationary just to write to Mary. I write to her about silly things. I write to her about sports and how boring it is to be an adult. I also write her about the amazing letters I received from her mom, Gloria, when she was just a cadet at the Air Force Academy and I was a girl.
Gloria’s letters were filled with adventure. Long hikes through the wilderness eating rabbits they caught from the wild and an eyeball on a dare. Stories of romps with the champion rugby team she played on, and the hundreds of times she parachuted from an airplane.
The letters I received live in a big box under the bed in the spare bedroom. Looking through them recently, I found $40 that an aunt sent with a note in French wishing me a happy birthday and hoping I kept up with my lessons. Every once in awhile I lug it out to reminisce on the wonder of being a kid. The letters are dusty and filled with a sincerity that simply does not translate the same in an email.
Although I haven’t done anything nearly as cool as my penpal Gloria, I try to make my letters as interesting as possible for my 8 year old audience. Maybe she doesn’t appreciate the nice paper now but I hope later she might. If she only gets one thing out of my letters I hope it’s that someone a few hours driving distance away really loves her.