When I was a kid I got a pen pall through the applications for such in a girl’s magazine for girls my age. We used to write to each other monthly and shared opinions like what were our favorite color or boys’ names, what famous girl was our idol and swapped small pieces of strawberry or banana smelling chewing gums with the letters. I can’t remember how the relationship to my pen pall ended, but I must have grown out of it somehow.
At the age of 8-9 (seen above) I had what I for long considered my first ‘serious’ boyfriend. He, a year older, wore a cap, was a savvy skater and took my breath away one day I was playing with a family friend that lived next door to him. I found him much more grownup than the boys from my own neighborhood and liked everything he said and did. When it turned out that he was the best friend of a boy in my prior class (we had moved and I swapped school in the middle of 2nd grade), I was convinced it was destiny and started picturing marrying him at the age of 19.
The skater and I started dating, which consisted of meeting whenever I visited my grandparents that lived close to his best friend, or when I was over at my family friend’s. He invited me over for Nintendo sessions in his basement and I remember feeling very cool and mature hanging out with his older brother and friends drinking Pepsi. Every time I had to leave, the skater took me over the park to the family friends’ house and kissed me on my cheek or quickly on the mouth. I can still picture the look of his back there he disappeared under the trees in the park and how I looked forward to stay in touch with him until the next time we met. You must understand this was before the era of the cell phones; in fact we hardly had a phone at home at the time; thus our way of communicating when apart was through letters.
And my mum listened patiently while I read her the love letters I had drafted.
One period I started feeling sad daily and quickly assumed it was a sort of heart-brokenness, which I shared with my mother. I can’t remember all the details, but for some reason Id become insecure about the relationship as I didn’t hear as much as I used to from the skater. Considering I was around 9 I can only imagine how long I felt a week or two was like at the time. “Has he dumped me?”, “Is he in love with someone else”? I asked my mum. She advised me to just be kind to him, revealing bits of my emotions, and perhaps ask him how he felt in the next letter.
So I sat down and wrote him a very open letter in which I shared all my love for him and dreams for the future. After finishing the letter I felt embarrassed as I saw myself acting way too grownup and told my mum it was a silly idea, and that I could never ever send him such a letter.
So I sat down and wrote him another letter. An easygoing letter in the same style as all the letters we had exchanged till then. We could for instance talk about skating, Nintendo, what we wanted for Christmas, what our favorite food was and that we one day pretty “soon” (at the age of 12 or so) would be big enough to go alone to the cinemas in Oslo. Stuff like that.
Some time went by, and suddenly I didn’t think that much of the skater any longer. Now I see it was due to my newly developed fascination for a cool boy in my class, at least I recall how I just went from wanting to die for the skater to a completely new guy without blinking during a few weeks. But as kids tend to in that age, I also didn’t see it as a problem having two boyfriends (!). Besides, I had enjoyed having the skater as a pen pall. The feeling of all of the sudden seeing a letter to me personally in the mailbox, checking out the drawings on the envelope, opening and smelling it and picturing what the other person’s life was about while reading, always made me happy.
Therefore, one day I decided to send him the chilled letter I had written, in order to see whether he’d like to still be my boyfriend/pen pall. When I came home from school I looked for the letter on the dining table where I had put it, but couldn’t find it. I searched everywhere and freaked out when I realised the emotional letter was gone too.
When my mum came home I waited for her in the doorway, and asked her to please tell me where they were. She couldn’t have thrown them away! “Imagine if someone finds it in the garbage and makes fun of me” I shouted. My mum didn’t understand a thing at first, she hardly remembered the silly letters. “One of them was in a pink envelope, and the other was yellow” I reminded her.
I found out that the worst thing I could ever imagine had happened. Although I can giggle today looking back at the event, it may be one of the top 3 traumatic experiences from my childhood: My mum said she remembered that Id told her to send one of the letters. However, she couldn’t know which one of the freaking letters she sent! It was my responsibility to give her the right one in the first place, she said. I begged her on my knees it wasn’t the pink envelope she had sent. “Please tell me you didn’t send it” I begged crawling on the on the floor. Shortly after we found the yellow envelope on top of the fridge, and although I knew already what expected me inside of it, I opened it begging to God this was the emotional one.
With time I had to accept that my mum must had sent the pink letter (“for Christ sake, Jeanett. You had left a letter on the table for me to send and I sent it”).. I read the yellow letter over and over and tried to recall back to the day I had written the pink one. In my head it still represents the most overly romantic, dramatic and love-begging thing I’ve ever written to a man. I pictured the skater laughing while reading it, showing it to all his friends, including his big brother, and that he from now on saw me as a catastrophe of a woman. Actually, I think I even considered skipping school for a while, ill of embarrassment.
I never heard from the skater after that, which obviously didn’t help on my assumptions that the letter was way over the top.
Speaking of letters. Despite the traumatic experience with the skater, I continued the tradition of getting new (and holding on to) pen palls in my adult life. When internet properly came in into my life at around 20, I thought for long I didn’t want to send emails as I found them so… electronically cold… I loved the personal look and feel of hand writings and often told old and new friends how I felt about emails making us all “colder”.
With time I’ve accepted and appreciated that emails can be equally personal as other letters and understood how much more practical they are in order to stay in touch with friends living far and about. They even allow us to share pictures and inspiring articles etc with a finger click, which undoubtedly make people connect more despite of distance*. Also, it fascinates me tremendously how true the saying that ‘a picture can say more than thousand words’ often is, especially related to travels.
Therefore, it warms my heart indescribably much when my long time pen/email pall Ross sends me random pictures like these from a journey far out on an island in the Pacific Ocean, with an added crucial detail to them so that I can remember our drinking nights and chats over whiskey from his home country while smiling over the fact that he has staged this little biodiversy brag in the honor of a friend up North.
Somehow I can hear it shouts out over two oceans and one sea “Greetings from Galapagos, bitches”.
*That said however, of course nothing beats a surprising hand written letter from a dear person.