I’m sitting on a futon in my living room.The pug is curled up beside me, snoring. He woke up about five minutes ago and burrowed out from under the covers of the bed, where Joe is currently (still) sleeping (in).
By June we’ll have a baby in this house, which means I now regard my husband’s sleeping habits with bitter sweetness.
The pug and I are on a futon because I sold our brown couch Thursday for $80 on Craigslist. (Yes, the brown couch my men are asleep on in the photo to your left.)
Over the course of nine months, I managed to save $1,092 in a mason jar to purchase a plush new sofa with an enormous seat and an equally enormous ottoman.
I told Joe it was important that I have a soft place to land as I get fatter and more pregnant. So, Merry Christmas to me.
But that’s not the point of this post.
As evidenced by the title, I’m here to espouse the pleasures of penpalship.
That’s right. PEN PALS.
Do you have one?
Chances are you had one many moons ago. It used to be that teachers encouraged the old-fashioned art of letter writing by hooking students up with pen pals in cities far from yours. Of course this was prior to email, which I’m also a fan of but for reasons completely separate from why I adore ACTUAL HANDWRITTEN MAIL.
The Internet has been good to me, but it’s not exactly the chicken soup to my Luddite soul.
In the same way a Subway foot-long can’t replace my mother’s grilled cheese sandwiches, an email can’t replace a handwritten letter delivered to your door.
I know some people complain about the rising cost of postage, but I’ve always considered the U.S. Postal Service to be a romantic and old-worldly operation. You can’t do much with 44 cents these days, except of course stick a stamp on a letter, place it in your mail box and trust that a handful of strangers will aid in delivering it to the opposite side of the country in less than a week. And in 10 days, the opposite side of the world.
When I open a letter, I imagine the author of the note sitting at a table writing it feverishly while all the world throws distractions their way. It’s not easy to see a letter through. A certain level of discipline is required. Motivation. Legible penmanship. Stationary. The proper address. And of course, the trifling stamp.
I’ve had many pen pals over the years, but none as expert (and awesome) as my girl LZ, who you’re about to meet.
LZ and I worked together in the early 2000s at a once-thriving Waldenbooks store in a mall outside of Buffalo.
We hit it off immediately. Not only are we both fiery Aries. We share the same April birthday and similar creative impulses. Our Waldenbooks manager once told me that she scheduled us on different shifts because we had a tendency to work less and giggle more in each others’ company.
If I had known we were going to be living in different countries one day, I’d have spent more time giggling and less time working.
Funny how that works.
We’ve been writing to one another since we both fled Buffalo six years ago – she for the University of Toronto and I for the Gulf Coast of Florida. I hadn’t seen LZ in five years until last September, when she and her tall, handsome boyfriend attended my wedding in Ellicottville, N.Y.
At one point during the reception, when we were both in the restroom, we turned to one other and in near unison said that our side-by-side reflections in the mirror looked (and felt) like a mirage.
Yet, it didn’t feel like five years had passed.
Because of our letters and packages.
For years we’ve documented our lives in random bits and pieces passed through the mail, neatly cataloged on custom forms, stuffed inside padded envelopes and bubble wrapped boxes.
We’ve exchanged mixed CDs. Good books. Earrings. Vintage magazines. T-shirts. Magnets. Post cards. Secrets.
Each year we send each other flowers for our birthday.
LZ started this tradition.
On frayed pages torn from old notebooks, delicate stationary and blank note cards, we’ve chronicled our ups and downs, our fears and triumphs. The boys we’ve dated. The parties we’ve puked at. The friends who’ve slighted us. The trips we’ve embarked on. The laundry we’ve yet to do. The work we’ve avoided by writing letters. The cramping our fingers suffer from because we refuse to email one another.
In all our years of penpalship I think we’ve exchanged one email.
When Facebook reared its insidious head, we were loathe to friend one another. It seemed sacrilegious.
But we did and consequently refrain from exchanging more than four sentences via Facebook.
Facebook has its place, but I’m not about to retire my beloved, rubber-banded-together address book, especially in the case of this relationship.
LZ is wonderfully sarcastic and wise and clever and thoughtful and quirky and entertaining. She’s one of those people you never want to slip out of your life. We’ve all got these people, whether we see them every day or every decade.
One time LZ suggested we record our messages to one another on tiny cassette tapes as Keri Russell did with her old friend Sally on the WB drama Felicity.
It’s an interesting idea. Maybe this year for our birthdays I’ll get us a tiny digital recorder and we can begin exchanging long voice mails through the mail.
PPS. For the record: LZ was just about spot-on with her latest letter (above), which arrived last week with a Christmas package. The only difference was that I was eating a big bowl of apple sauce, not cereal.