Well, okay, it wasn't in a land that far away but it was more than thirty years ago. As an 11 year old girl living in England I signed up for a pen pal scheme through Jackie magazine. For those of you old enough to remember, Jackie was THE magazine for young British lasses to buy. It was a weekly magazine just for girls with features on pop bands, interviews with stars, fashion advice and of course a very extensive problem page feature. It sadly disappeared from newsagents in 1993.
Anyway, I digress, lost in the good old care free days of magazines with articles about Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Duran Duran and teenage pimples. It was through Jackie magazine that I met my pen pal.
Her first letter to me was an insight into the mind of a pre-teen girl living in Chester, many miles away from me in Hertfordshire. Her mum made her wear Clarke shoes and in response to my revealing I was a Wham fan she told me in no uncertain terms that she believed George Michael probably didn't like girls..... You can imagine her glee when the media got hold of the story that he was indeed gay. My pen pal was way ahead of her time......
She also became a great friend. We exchanged letter after letter for many months, maybe it was years, I don't remember, before I went to Chester to meet her. She made the trek down south to stay with me and it became a summer holiday time habit.
She slotted into my circle of friends as if she'd always been there. We waded in streams. We went to parties. We talked into the early hours about life and Desmond Tutu (probably best not to ask questions).
We wrote to each other throughout our teenage years. We wrote about school, poop bands, boys, our friends, our problems, our parents and families. We shared secrets. We told things to each other our own friends didn't get to hear. That's the beauty of letter writing. It's the same reason journaling works wonders.
Leaving home to go to university didn't interrupt our friendship, though the number of letters did start to diminish. Letters dwindled further as we moved into our 20s and for a while we lost contact. We reconnected. We caught up. Emails replaced hand written letters. We visited each other again. And we were at each other's weddings. My family met up with her family whilst they were expats in Belgium.
She moved back to England and we lost contact again. We're connected on Facebook but life's turns have taken us in different directions. Maybe it's time to reconnect.
Whatever happens in the future, nothing can take the past away. Nothing can take the memories of those years in-between away.
There are so many reasons to have a pen pal: friendship, love, a culture exchange, to practice a second language, to open up your world. In a world where we are used to rushing out emails to people or connecting with loved ones through Skype or Face Time, sitting down with a pen in hand to think about words before you mark the page in front of you is more meaningful than ever.
Over to You: Did you have a pen pal as a child? Do your children have pen pals? I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts!
You can read more blog posts this week on the topic of pen pals from fellow bloggers from the Multicultural Kid Blogs community: