A Palate Cleanser

We’ve been talking about weighty subjects here of late. Thank you for being kind and respectful. Today I think we’ll talk about something a little lighter. Maybe it will be a peek into who I am and why I’m the person I am. Don’t forget: I’m still always weird.

When I was a kid of about 7 years old one Sunday I was reading the funnies (comics- I don’t know the word you’d use). At that time it was a stand alone section that wrapped around the whole paper that was so heavy I could barely carry it in from the front steps. I excitedly read through all my favorites: Peanuts, Family Circus and others I can’t remember. At that time there was a small section each week that changed. Sometimes it was puzzles or information about animals. It was kind of the education section of the funnies. This particular week there was a picture of letters with international postage stamps on them and a paragraph talking about pen pals. There was even information about a company who would match you to an international pen pal. I haunted my mother for the rest of the day. I had to get a pen pal. I had to have a friend from a faraway land. My mother knew me all too well. I wasn’t going to be quiet and go to bed until she had helped me fill out the form. I suspect she also knew this would help with my reading and writing. A good student I was not.

A few weeks passed and to be honest I’d probably forgotten about the whole event. But little did I know things were happening. My name and address had been sent off just about as far away from my house as it could get. One day my mother met me after school with an envelope in her hand. It was a letter from my new pen pal who lived in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia! Immediately when I got home I sat down and wrote my reply. My first question was to ask if she had a koala or a kangaroo. Of course she did not.

This was a pivotal event in my life. She was a live human being I had contact with who lived in another country on the other side of the world. She told me about her school and her family and friends, books she liked to read and what she did in her free time. We were so much alike even though she lived in a foreign place. We exchanged photos and eventually a cassette tape so we could hear each other’s voice. I have no idea what she was saying but I heard her voice!

I don’t remember what the conversation was that I’d had with my father but whatever it was it spurred him to buy me a big poster sized map for my bedroom wall. He was probably trying to make the point that my new friend couldn’t come over to play on Saturday afternoon.

Over time we lost touch. Her mother had died when she was very young and her dad when she was a teenager. She was sent to live with relatives. I never heard from her again. Glenda if you recognize this story leave me a comment. I’d love to reconnect.

Over time I added more pen pals, a couple in England, one in Belgium, one from France. Getting to know these people taught me that inside we are really very much the same. We love our families. We go to school. We do hobbies. We take vacations or holidays as they say some places. The differences are minor and have more to do with geography and experience.

Did you have a pen pal when you were a child? Was it as eye opening for you as it was for me?

This one thing changed my view on people. No longer did I think of those who live in other lands as strange. They were just strangers I hadn’t met yet and I really hope to meet as many people as I can. We are all unique and we have so much to offer to one another if we can just see beyond the differences. Know that whoever you are, wherever you may be I wish the very best for you and yours.

About nothingbutknit2

I'm a wife, mother and knitter. Watch out for my pointy sticks.
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25 Responses to A Palate Cleanser

  1. nanacathy2 says:

    What an interesting topic, and I love the story of your penfriend- wouldn’t it be lovely if you can find her. Yes I had a penfriend as a child. A boy up our road went to a school where they arranged French penfriends in Madagascar- he was matched with a boy called Claude, only Claude turned out to be a girl not a boy, so she was passed onto me, The idea was I wrote in French, her in English and we corrected each others letters and returned them. Her English was a great deal better than my French! We lost touch, but I still have all the lovely postcards she sent me over a number of years, safely stuck in a scrapbook. I wonder what became of Claude- I would love to visit Madagascar one day….. Since then I have written to many penfriends in the UK, US, and Canada- most have dropped away, but a couple remain from when we were new Mums floundering at home- found via a parenting magazine. I love writing and receiving mail, real letters, not emails. Here’s to snail mail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder if kids still have “Pen Pals”? It is so much easier now then back then… with letters and post cards replaced by SMS, email, and live chat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know when my kids were in elementary school they wrote letters to a class in another state. Sadly they views it as school work not the opportunity to met a new friend.
      In a perfect world the ease of communication would be great for a new kind of pen pals. Unfortunately there are bad actors out there who would take advantage of this to get access to children. The internet really is a mixed blessing:(

      Liked by 2 people

  3. yarnmama10 says:

    Thanks for sharing! Sometimes blogging can be something like that can’t it? I read blogs from people who are in other countries and it gives me insight to what you found with your pen pals. Of course it’s not necessarily as intimate and not private so it has limitations. I don’t often share private stuff on my blog but that’s me. Some people are more open to that and I appreciate the insight when they do.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. randomlyerin says:

    I remember doing a penpal sort of thing in high school foreign language class. It was fascinating to me. And the best part of the international travel I’ve been able to do as an adult is getting to meet new people and see how different their “normal” is from my own. Those differences are what make this life so interesting; we just need to keep our minds open to the opportunities. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have so little experience with international travel and this pandemic stuff has really put the brakes on any I’d hoped to have. The people are the best part of visiting any new place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • randomlyerin says:

        Mmm, and the food… I always laughed when I went on the grant trips. Several of the people I traveled with are from India and so every place we went they only wanted to eat at Indian restaurants. The other woman in our group was like me and happy to try the local cuisine. Oh how I miss those days…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I didn’t have any penfriends as a kid, but always thought it would be interesting 🙂 I kind of feel like blogging and reading others’ blogs as an adult is kind of the same thing in a lot of ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had a penpal from France for a few years. That was so much fun, I wish kids could do it again. There was a movement for a bit of having kids write to nursing home inmates (a sweet older lady we visited in one of the nicer homes always referred to herself as an inmate and I can’t help but continue to use that term) . I thought that was a great idea, because it’s not only countries that divide us, it’s age.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. claire93 says:

    oh gosh yes! I had penpals! Two were through school: a French penpal, Christine, who I visited several years in a row on the annual school exchange. She and her family were lovely but our correspondance fizzled out as we grew to adulthood. And a German penfriend, Andrea, also through school and school exchange. More than 40 years later we still send each other xmas cards, birthday cards and a couple of emails with family photos a couple of times a year ^^

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kellie says:

    Oh I love this post ❤️ I’m from Australia too, no kangaroo (though I see them almost every single day) and no koala. I hope you reconnect with Glenda, what a great story 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  9. chrisknits says:

    I think I wrote a pen pal a few times, but it’s so long ago I really do not remember much about it. I was more a tom boy following my brothers in all the usually out door activities! But how lovely you have that memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kathyreeves says:

    I didn’t have a pen pal growing up, but I did stay in contact with my best friend from kindergarten when I moved away after 2nd grade. She even came out for her spring break one year when we were in college. 😀 I loved hearing about your pen pal! My dad just got a pen pal, a 5th grader from the local private school has started writing to the people 8n his home, and he got one. He was pretty excited about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yarnydragonfly says:

    Yes! Pen pals were a big part of my childhood. My very first pen pal was my grandmother who lived about 45 minutes away. We probably started exchanging letters as soon as I could write. She gets full credit for turning me into a life-long letter writer. My first international pen pal was from The Netherlands and her name was Monique (although I think it was spelled differently). Through pen pal-ing, I not only found new friends and learned about different cultures, but I became interested in geography and travel, different languages, even stamp collecting. The thrill of coming home from school to find a light blue airmail envelope covered in beautiful postage stamps with my name on it was the highlight of my day! I had international pen pals all through high school, but sadly lost touch with them after that. Then, in my late 20s/early 30s, I was searching for some hobbies and decided to try pen pal-ing again. I enjoyed this hobby even more as an adult and had A LOT of pen pals from all over the world. In the 1990s my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for his job and I made sure to meet up with some of my pen pals while we were there. It was the highlight of our trips! I am still in touch with a handful of my pen friends, although now we tend to communicate by email rather than snail mail. It has been a great hobby and a great adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. RebSef says:

    I had a pen pal called Kate. She lived in New Zealand. Unfortunately, my mother wrote to her mother and I never heard from her again 😦 We had been writing to each other for two years until then. My Nanna helped me to find her. After that I felt it best that I didn’t have a pen pal. My mother couldn’t mess it up then! But I would love one. There’s something wonderful about writing a proper hand-written letter!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Stefanie says:

    So cool how you had international pen pals. I saw something advertised on IG for such a snail mail service and supposedly your private details aren’t given to the pen pal.

    Liked by 1 person

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