My daughter started writing to a pen pal this year. At first I thought we should look at pen pal groups online, but knowing what a slightly disillusioned world we live in I mentioned to her that perhaps she should write to someone we both know of but haven’t had any contact with in 9 years.
One of my best friends in South Africa has a daughter a year younger than her. My daughter was only 3 1/2 when we left South Africa and although her and my friend’s daughter use to spend a lot of time together she doesn’t remember her. My daughter was very excited about the idea of writing to someone else so far away. I told her what a lovely feeling it is receiving mail the ‘old fashioned’ way. Knowing that someone took the time to carefully put their words together on paper, add a photo or two, pay for postage. It is something an email or instant message can’t replace.
This off course brought back the memories of my own pen pal writing days. I remember that I found my pen pal on the pages in one of these vibrant teen magazines. During my early teens mobile phones (if you were lucky to have one) were the size of bricks and you could only make or receive phone calls. Yes we had computers but again that was a luxury not all families had and as a family we never used emails until I was much older. So writing letters and make landline phone calls was still the best and most efficient way to communicate.
The pen pal I choose to write to was a young teenager who farmed with his family. Writing to only a name at the time, not knowing anything about the person who might (or might not) write back was pretty exciting. I was very fortunate that he respond and several weeks later I received a letter back. I can’t remember where he was from as I have since lost all the letters, but he was a year or so older than me, lived some distance away and even though he attended school, he spend most of his days on the farm. He was really lovely to write to and it always remained platonic. Thinking about it now, I not only wrote to a complete stranger but also provided them our address of residence which in hind sight was probably neglectful, but my parents didn’t see any danger to it as back then we were reasonably sheltered from wrong doings. No one thought of the ‘what could happen if’ scenarios. We felt safe.
Today my daughter received her pen pal letter! I will treasure her facial expression when she opened the mail box and retrieved from it a letter marked with foreign stamps and beautifully neat hand writing. She opened her letter and read it out load. There were two photos accompanying the letter which she had since pinned to her board in her room. While she read the letter she would laugh at funny bits her newly found friend wrote, or exclaimed ‘I didn’t know that’ as she explains in her letter how far away they live from the beach, or how big her school is.
These are the type of memories I want to instill in my children.
Let the journey begin.