I love to write letters and I have from a long time back. I think it started when my dad, stepmom and older sisters moved to the Big Island and mom and Jen and I lived on Oahu, then Maui. Making long distance phone calls back then was expensive and rare. I think we might talk on the phone on Sunday evenings, but that was about it. So I started writing letters and my dad would write back. I loved loved loved getting letters! Nothing was more exciting (other than going to the bookstore) than to go to the post office and have something in Box F for me.
In the newspapers back then there were small sections with a list of pen pals you could write to. In 8th grade I wrote to a few in the US and to some in Germany. (At the time "West Germany.") Somehow my name was put into an English language magazine for school kids learning English there and I started to get lots of letters. Joy oh joy! I replied to every one and wrote steadily to about 20 of them for a year or so. The letters slowed to a trickle as some of them lost interest and faded away, and by the time I graduated from high school, I had four regular pen-pals left in Germany: Ute, Elfriede (Evi), Antonia (Toni) and Andrea.
When I travelled to Europe in 1989 and again in 1992, I met them all and their families. It was amazing. And to this day (almost 30 years later!) I still write Christmas cards with Evi and Andrea. I somehow lost Ute and Antonia over the last ten years, and while I still send letters to Antonia's address in Amberg, I have not heard from her ever. Same with Ute. Then recently I got a friend request on Facebook from Ute! We have caught up, got new addresses for each other and remain in touch. Still no Toni, though, and that makes me sad.
In the internet age, the series of tubes had been an amazing way to find people you knew a long time ago, something that would have been tough to do ten years ago. Recently I discovered a Facebook group for my elementary school on Maui, Lihikai. Many of the people in that group are from my class and we are now talking about having a get together in June when we're home. That will be mind blowing! Seeing faces that are so similar, but grown up is fantastic. I was at Lihikai from third through sixth grade so these memories are a bit pockmarked and I'm sure the gaps will be filled in.
I thought about all this as I was skype-chatting with a new friend, Helen, last week. We met in Belfast on The Project last fall and bonded over the work and a friend we have in common. (Our friend Carole had been in Belfast a year or so before, working on City of Ember.) We became Facebook friends, of course, and have stayed in touch. The reason I thought of pen pals was because in our skype-chat we were sending pictures back and forth of ourselves as kids and google map view images of our houses. The one 40 minute skype-chat we had would have been months of pen pal letters (with pictures) back in the day.
I like being in this internet bridge generation, having grown up with rotary phones and snail mail, and unwrapping the first and my first Macintosh on Christmas in 1984. Now I've (almost) fully embraced the online life, blogging and tweeting and facebooking my way to greater happiness. Okay, well, that's a bit over the top, but you know what I mean. I do appreciate that it is so much easier to stay in touch with people, especially when you make new friends (like I do on movie sets, far from home). I like being able to just send them a wall post to say "hi, thinking of you..." I have also made new friends on Twitter who I now know in real life and who will be friends for a long time.
But there was something about sitting down to write letters. Pulling the sheet from the envelope, rereading what my friends had to say, looking at the pictures they sent, then deciding what paper I wanted to use and which color pen. Then the writing of a reply, sealing it up, addressing it, stamping it, mailing it. Then the sweet wait time until I got a reply in my (actual) mailbox.
Oh I still write letters. If you've read this blog long enough, you know I like my paper and ink. (Sadly it seems I've been writing condolence letters more than anything lately.) I like to get out the stationery and fancy pen and write a "thinking of you" note to an old friend or family member. I'm old school and will never change. I guess it's becoming a thing of the past, but I'll only give you my pen (and paper) when you pry it from my cold dead hands!