When I was a teenager, my favorite time of day was when the mail came. I used to stalk the mailbox waiting for the mail.
Why? Well, probably because I had no life. But, no, it was because I had a dozen pen pals and at any day, I might get a letter. Some pen pals lasted the duration of a summer, while others saw my through high school.
The first letter I know I wrote was to my grandparents while we were stationed in Iceland. And it is hilarious. "Did you know we had a sister? Her name is Wendy. We should've told you sooner."
When we left Iceland, I left two best friends behind, Chris and Maja. Chris and I met in second grade when all you had to do was have something in common. My opening line was, "I think my mom knows your mom." Add water, instant bestie.
Maja was Icelandic. When we first moved to Iceland, we rented the top floor their house until we got housing on base. Maja was a year or so older than me and we collected paper napkins together--although nobody stateside had ever heard of this, and my collection languished until one day, I must've thrown in away. Ahh, regrets...
We came back to the states in 1971. There were no computers, no internet, no cell phones, no texting. To stay in touch with our friends in other places, we had to write letters.
And write to them, I did. Especially Chris, because I didn't have to get international stamps for her letters. Two years later, Chris and her mom would come to live with us while her dad worked on the Alaskan pipeline. They spent a couple of months with us until her dad returned and they settled in New Mexico--which felt like another world away when you're going into junior high without your best friend.
It was during those angsty teenage years that my letter writing really took off. I was never a journaler--Oh, I always had a diary, but they're more about which boy I had a crush on, not about my inner most thoughts that one of my sisters--Debbie--might find and threaten to reveal. I think Chris got most of my inner-most thoughts.
Then one day, in the pages of Teen Magazine, I saw an article about pen pals. I sent in my application and thus begun my obsessing stalking of the mail man. I had pen pals in Japan, New York, Texas, Trinidad-Tobago--and several other places that I can't recall right now.
Those friendships and pen pals got me through high school. There's no doubt. When I was feeling depressed or upset about something that happened, I had friends on paper that I could talk to. Some letters probably were never sent, others probably shouldn't have been sent, but...
I regret that I lost my letters a few moves ago. I hadn't looked at them in years, but they were always there if I needed to. And now, they aren't. Of course, I didn't have copies of the letters I sent, only the replies--but they usually held reminders of what I'd written.
Chris and I have remained friends most of our lives. She now resides in south-west Oregon which is quite a bit close than New Mexico. Although we still don't see each other often enough, we do keep in touch with birthday phone calls and through Facebook.
And I found Maja--who goes by Maria, now--through a mutual friend I'd met at work. She was Icelandic and from the same town, Keflavik, that I'd lived in. She took a letter to Maja and her family. Then they friended us on Facebook. After all these years...
You know what I miss the most about writing letters? The anticipation of the mailbox. It just isn't the same anymore.