Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pen Pals

When someone says “FB,” Facebook will come to mind.  For me, I think of friendship books.  Friendship books, nicknamed FBs, are papers stapled together and sent through the mail.  You write your name, contact information, likes, and pass it on to someone else.  When you receive an FB, you glance through it to see if anyone mentioned would be a great candidate for a pen pal, based on interests and location.  Some FBs are quite stylish, covered in stickers and drawings. 

I first became interested in pen pals as a child when my family vacationed in Lake George.  We went into a painting shop and noticed cookies for sale on the counter.  The store’s owner explained that his daughter sold cookies to pay for her pen pal stamps.  I got her name and address, and began a correspondence that lasted throughout many years.  She had found her pen pals through a home school newsletter.  I wasn’t home schooled, but she did introduce Friendship Books to me.  I wrote to a few people in one, gained more FBs, wrote to more people…at one point in high school, I had over fifty pen pals. 

It was amazing to see how people in other countries lived.  We loved the same books, participated in the same hobbies, and connected on a strong level of friendship.  I had pen pals in Canada, England, Scotland, Egypt, Portugal, Sri Lanka, India, Germany, Holland, Brazil, Spain, Japan, South Africa, Croatia, France, Czech Republic, and other countries.  I also had pen pals from all over the United States.  Sadly, once we entered college, many people no longer had the time or funds to continue correspondence.  We still keep in touch via the Internet, but it isn’t the same as those long letters on beautiful stationary, with friendship books, pictures, and stickers enclosed in the envelopes.  I still have ten pen pals I write to on a monthly basis.  I love the sensation of finding an envelope in the mail, addressed to me, and covered in stickers. 

Of all my pen pals, I have been able to meet one in person.  Sarah, whom I have corresponded with since elementary school, currently lives in Albany.  She drove down to visit me at my home a few years ago.  It was great to talk in person.  We even have a few of the same pen pals from long ago.  After that, we’ve gotten to meet twice more.  I attended one of her plays in Albany and met her at Colony Mall.   I’m glad we’ve been able to stay friends throughout the years, and I never would have met her if not for friendship books and pen paling. 

My mother has also gotten into pen pals.  She read one of my friendship booklets and wrote to a woman her age in Scotland.  They’ve been pen pals ever since, and send each other gifts at Christmastime.  She has the potholder of Scotland hanging in the kitchen. 

If you’re interested in pen pals, there are some great websites for finding a correspondence.  Although I’ve found my pen pals through friendship books, I discussed internet sites with my pen pal who lives in New Jersey.   She’s found quite a few through and, although she highly recommends as the best.  Many people on those sites prefer email pals more than snail mail pals, in case you’d rather not send “old fashioned“  letters.  For me, I prefer a handwritten letter any day!  

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