The Power of the Pen-Pal

In forth grade, my teacher introduced our class to an idea … pen-pals! We could pick one or two names and write to children on the other side of the country … or world in some cases.

I loved to write so this seemed like a no brainer to me.  I picked a name; Carrie from California. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

We wrote about every month from forth grade until we graduated high school. We exchanged awkward school pictures, stories about our annoying siblings, and highlights from our “rad summer vacations.”

By the time college came around, we were still writing and decided it was time. Time to finally meet up face to face. The choice was her coming to Ohio … or me traveling to California.  Of course I opted for an adventure to the West Coast! We spent weeks together. We climbed rooftops and watched shooting stars. We ate ice cream for breakfast and toilet papered neighbors homes. We toured San Francisco and made a point to visit Jimmy Hendrix’s old stomping grounds. We spent time shopping our way through Berkeley and hit the beach in Malibu. 

Carrie and I were completely opposite, and yet completely the same. We were raised very much alike – strict parents, with one sibling, and a priority on education … both adventurous. Yet I was loud and silly. She was more quiet and reserved. I with dark eyes and dark hair, her blonde and blue eyed.  None of the differences mattered. We hit it off from the second me met and those weeks in California felt like reuniting with family. And in essence, that’s exactly what we had become. Family. It’s amazing how bonds can form and you don’t even know it’s happening. We took the time to connect, month after month and year after year. We survived puberty together and crushes on boys together.  Since this was before email and cell phones, we built our friendship on patience and trust , as we waited anxiously by the mailbox to get that letter back each month. In fact, this I would say was one of the best experiences of my childhood. Here we are all these years later – both married, with children, and still celebrating life together. She came to visit me in Alabama and I’m awaiting next summer when I can visit her in Hawaii. Thats the magical part of life. We meet people all along the way. Some are designed to stay in our lives for just a season, while others are meant to stay for a lifetime.  If you are an educator reading this … or a parent … one of the best gifts you can give your child is a pen-pal.  Friendships that can stand the test of miles will bless our children as they become adults. In a world where instant gratification rules, there is something priceless about slowing life down with a pen and paper.

As for Carrie, I hope she will always know how much I adore her. After all, she knew me, before I even knew me.  And when our kids are old enough to understand, we will tell them upon a time, two girls met. Shooting stars and t-peeing homes happened somewhere in the middle. And when those ladies are old women, they will still be writing each other. The miles kept them apart, but their love kept them together.


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