When I was 8, I was matched up to write a thank you letter for my school to a nice couple living in Pennsylvania. I believe they had contributed money towards something- maybe our diocese at the time? It was a privilege to be chosen to write the thank yous, as only children in my school with readable writing were able to participate.
After sending my thank you, I received a letter back from the couple.
I sent one back.
And so it began! Over the years I was excited to get mail from Leland and Mary Ann. I heard about their children, and they saw my journey switch from attending Catholic school to public school to homeschooling and later college. While they told tales of winters in Florida, I longed to travel, and eventually did. I sent them a postcard from Europe while studying there, and they sent me one from Key West, a place that still remains on my "to see bucket list".
When my twin cousins were born in Rhode Island in late 1997, my sister and I went to "help" for two weeks. While there, a package came from Leland & Mary Ann for me- a Christmas gift box full of card games, a tamagotchi (remember those!?), candy and other goodies.
Over the years, our correspondence has become more spotty- mainly birthday and Christmas cards. They grew older and frailer, and I moved, changed jobs and addresses probably too much for them to keep up! Either last Christmas or the year before, I remember a Christmas card from them, saying that Leland had had a stroke but was doing okay.
This year as I was writing Christmas cards, I saw their address and sent a card off- honestly not knowing if they were still alive or living in their former home. Less than a week later, I got a card back! They are both doing well, still trucking along. It was my favorite Christmas card to receive, hands down.
Although I have countless cards and letters from the couple, I've never met Leland and Mary Ann in person. It's likely I never will, at least in this world-- but it's amazing to have been a part of this long-distance connection for almost 20 years!
Do you have any long-term penpals? I'd love to hear your story!