A Walk Down Memory Lane

Last year I had been talking with Estelle on gchat about how I was having a ton of nostalgia lately. I don’t know the source of it but I knew one big that had been going The Postal Service concert…a band that just reminded me SO much of my freshman year of college. And she being the brilliant person she is, I mean our convo spurred one of my most popular posts ever, was like “you should make this a thing” and I knew she was right. It would be fun to talk about this stuff sporadically — all the nostalgia and memories from my past. And here we are…months later. Here’s the thing about me, right now I have about 100 drafts of half started posts in my WordPress dashboard. I’ve been trying to go through them and weed out what I don’t want to write about anymore and I found this and was like YES. I’m ready. Let’s DO THIS. So, thanks Estelle for this idea for me! xoxo

 

So let’s do this…

So, I mentioned this in my Meet YA Jamie post but when I was a kid/tween I had about 30-40 pen pals..like at the same time. Maybe it’s the fact that I loved the joy of getting something in my mailbox (umm still do apparently because I happy dance when I get books in the mail) or this desire to just get to know people from all over the place. Hey, I’m seeing another parallel here between then and now with the blogging community. Or it could just be because I liked to write letters. But whatever the reason was…I was OBSESSED with it. (I also got really into swapping these things that were cool amongst the pen pallers of the day…friendship books and slam books. Does ANYBODY know what I’m talking about??)

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I first was introduced to the idea of pen pals through Creative Kids magazine (did anyone get that magazine as a kid?) and then through Girl’s Life magazine. I had pen pals from so many states and even some from different countries. It was just fun to be able to talk to someone outside your normal sphere. It was fun to learn about someone else’s life in another part of the world but also totally dish about family/friend drama, boy problems, favorite bands and celebs, etc. Sometimes they would be 1 or 2 pages and sometimes they’d be 10 pages. Sometimes it would be on fancy stationary or sometimes just notebook paper. There is just something special about a handwritten letter. About strangers becoming friends without ever meeting but they end up knowing so much about you.

 

And, now when I think about it, there was such beauty in a conversation that wasn’t instant like we are so accustomed to now. There was processing it, really “listening” to what they were saying and then really thinking about what you were going to say back. You had to wait for a response. It was something to look forward to. It was just really rather nice. I MISS handwritten letters. I do. So much. I do think the book blogging community has given me a lot of the feelings I loved about meeting new people from all over. Connecting with people you might not otherwise, learning different perspectives, etc.

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I have a box full of these letters still and went through them recently (so many LOLS and wondering what the heck I wrote about because of their responses). I still think a lot about some of those pen pals I had — the ones I wrote to the most and felt like I really got to know. I kind of wonder who they grew up to be. How they are doing. I was a little bit of a creeper once and tried to find the one girl on Facebook but I never ended up going through with friend requesting her because I figured “HEY we used to be pen pals like 15 years ago” might be strange if she didn’t remember or if she thought it was just weird I had looked for her.

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I’m glad I got that experience before the rise of the internet and AIM and the texting and all. Not that there is anything WRONG with online friends (I mean, hello, some of my bffs are bloggers I’ve met online and some came to my wedding even) but there was just something special about that time in my life when I poured over a letter, put that stamp on (damn they weren’t as expensive) and sent it off to another corner of the world. There was just a beautiful art to snail mail.

So I’m curious…did anyone else have pen pals when they were younger (or even now)? I mean, like real snail mail pen pals. Also, do you write a lot of handwritten letters or cards these days?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. Omigosh YES! I used to loooooooove pen pals! When I was in elementary school, I was in Girl Guides and we went to this event called Hands Across the Border. Basically, all the Canadian Girl Guides and Boy Scouts would come down to the border, and the American Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts would come up to the border and we had this big parade and a ceremony and it was all about peace between the countries. THEN, the best part was that we’d spread out blankets and trade stuff. We made lots of handmade crafts and I used to put my address on EVERYTHING, hoping to find pen pals. I remember having a few really great conversations with some of the American girls that I met, and then hoping and praying that they’d be the ones to pick up the pen and write me a letter when they got home. I had quite a few pen pals (not nearly as many as you though) and we kept in touch for a few years.

    You’re so right though — there is something absolutely beautiful about receiving a thoughtful letter in the mail, not to mention the fact that it’s not an immediate response, like texting or e-mail or Twitter. I still write letters with one person: the retired store manager from my very first job after graduation. She doesn’t even own a computer, so it’s the only way that we stay in touch. It’s usually only a letter or two a year, but when I do sit down to write I write her about 5-10 pages at a time. Which reminds me, I owe her a letter in response to her Christmas card and I’ll be sending her a couple of photos of Marko. Since she’s not on e-mail or Facebook, she hasn’t even seen what he looks like yet — and he’s a whole year old! This is going to be a fun letter to write, choosing which photos to include and sending it all off in a little package in the mail.

    Thanks for (yet again) such a fun, thoughtful post! If you ever want another pen pal, I’d be game =)

    • That sounds like a very cool experience!! I was kind of the same way as you..like when we went on vacation I would always try to make friends and hope they’d want to stay in touch as pen pals haha. I was OBSESSED.

      I LOVE that you write letters regularly to that lady! I bet she’s going to LOVE all the pictures of your cutie πŸ™‚

      And I have a lot on my plate right now so I’d be a crappy penpal but when things settle down…ABSOLUTELY!

  2. LOL at Facebook creeping. That would be sort of strange, and that gif lol. But I think it’s sweet that you even remember their name and anything about them.

    I never did pen pals, but I do remember writing back and forth with my friends. Especially when I moved out of state and changed schools. It was right before the Internet boomed, dial-up and AOL discs. And so began the birth of a new nation.

    • Haha right? I just feel like it’s been a loooong time at this point so it might be creepy. I think MAYBE she wouldn’t think it was weird but I don’t want to take that chance hahah

      AOL discs. LOL. Oh good times from our youth.

  3. When I was about eight or nine, my class all wrote letters and they got sent to a school in Latvia (I live in New Zealand). That was freaking awesome. I still have all the letters my pen pal sent me. We used to send each other stickers after we found out each other collected stickers haha. I mostly just remember that she had the most gorgeous handwriting! I also did the creeper look up on FB and not add thing for exactly the same reason. I really wish I still had a random someone on the other side of the world to hand write letters to. I miss that. I can’t believe you had so many though!

    • That is so awesome! I wish my classroom would have done something like that! I totally did the sticker trading too!!

      I really do wish I also had someone to write to from across the world that I didn’t know! I don’t know how I would come across them but still! The thing about when I used to do pen pals is that the one I found through Girl’s Life magazine got me into the friendship books which basically you sent around until it was full from pen pal to pen pal until it was full and got sent back to the original owner. There was always lingo used to show people you wanted a new pen pal so I found so many from doing THAT. It was fun. Esp because often we all loved the same boy bands like Hanson and BSB and Nsync!

  4. I have still a lot of pen pals from all over the world. It’s gotten a bit less at the moment, because damn that stamps are getting way to expensive to just send one letter and it has to be below 20 grams. I have a dear penpal in Lithuania and one in Belarus and the other ones just send me letters sometimes, but I also take long long to reply, because the stamps are just way too expensive. Reminds me that I should write and send some letters… I used to have many and I would spend entire afternoons just by writing letters. I do have some pen pals of mine on Facebook and we chat occasionally, because you know, some stopped because they got too busy with life or the stamps did get too expensive for them as well. I met a lot of nice people through interpals.net. It’s a great website and most of the people I met there I have on Skype, not specifically for letter writing. I used to do postcrossing, like sending a postcard to a random person in the world and you get a postcard back from another random person in the world. It’s a great initiative, I have hundreds of postcards around from countries I’ll probably never even get to go to!

    • SERIOUSLY stamps are awful now! But that’s really awesome you still have pen pals! And from different countries! I’m going to have to check out postcrossing! I’ve heard of it but never really looked into it!

  5. I went to summer camp for eleven years, and so a lot of my friends from there became my penpals. As we grew up, we discovered email and texting, and now we don’t write letters anymore. I always LOVED getting snail mail at camp, it was the best part of the day. Of course, since I was away from my phone and computer, I didn’t hear from my home friends much. But that was okay.

    I wish I had “real” pen pals! I miss writing letters, it always brightens my day when I get to use fun stationary and drop the envelope in the mailbox!
    ~Lydia

    • Very fun! I wished I went to summer camp as a kid! I met some girls from lacrosse camp in high school and we exchanged emails but never spoke again! Yesss I loved getting fun stationary to send off. And AHH the feeling of seeing a letter. It was the best!

  6. Ummmm THIS! I loved penpals and had SO many. My younger self was really into journaling and any type of writing, so sharing it with someone else was just the icing on the cake. And don’t even get me started on the stickers! I remember going to Michaels and Walmart and picking out just the RIGHT stickers to go with the theme of that week’s letter — LOL, oh man, good times!

  7. When I was in middle school I was super into manga/anime more so than I am now. I wrote a review of an anime that was published in a popular magazine of that genre at the time. Was it Animerica? I have it somewhere hopefully I don’t throw it away. So from that I got like 30-40 pen pals but it ended up being so hard to keep up with because that was before the internet (I’m not as old as I sound) so hand writing those letter were killer. However my best friend was one of those pen pals and we’ve been friends ever since her first letter to me. Although we laugh whenever anyone ask the story of how we met and don’t tell them.

    • Oh that’s very cool!! Haha I was pen palling before the internet too! We can be old together! yeah, sometimes it was hard having that many pen pals especially when all the letters came in at the same time. haha.

      That is also very cool about you and your bff! It’s funny bc through blogging I’ve met people who I consider bffs now and it’s always so awkward when people ask how I know them bc I’m like THE INTERNET but I promise it’s not creepy!!

  8. I’ve never had a pen pal (unless you count exchanging letters between friends who live in different states?) but I think there is something different about receiving and writing something handwritten. It’s so much more personalized and lovely than a computerized note. I still like to write cards (thank you cards especially) and I enjoy getting them ,too, more so than I enjoy getting emails.

    • It really is so much more personal and exciting! I get way more excited than seeing an email in my inbox. I’ve been trying to amass a card collection and be intentional about writing more cards to people!

  9. I didn’t have an official penpal when I was a kid, but I always wanted one. I had a friend in 3rd grade that moved to Oregon. I was living in Illinois at the time. She was my best friend and I was pretty devastated that she was moving across the country. But we promised to write and I remember that I got her some cool stationary and gel pens (because you know those were all the rage back then) as a going away present and we promised to write each other all the time. Well long story short, I wrote her tons of letters and she never wrote back. Pretty depressing. But years later, she actually found me on Facebook. So now I guess we’re internet friends (although we never really talk), but that’s my failed attempt at having a penpal.

    • OMG GEL PENS YES. I had a ZILLION different colors. Always used those hahah.

      I tried to keep in touch with my friends when I moved in 8th grade but it didn’t go so well either :/ I think on both sides though bc it seemed like I couldn’t keep up and neither could they once the novelty wore off. We wrote a couple times but that’s it. I think it was a) getting into my new life b) I missed them so much and felt like I was missing out.

  10. This post really spoke to me!

    In elementary school, I remember our class being pen pals with a class from California. We even received our pen pal’s school picture in a letter. I still remember being awfully confused as to why the girl was wearing a sweater when she lived in California, lol. Oh, the things we remember!

    Then, when we were younger, my BFF and I were obsessed with the Traveling Pants series. She later moved across the state to Harrisburg for college, and although we never shared a pair of pants, we did send handwritten letters and I just loved that. I loved walking into town to drop a letter in the mailbox on the corner. I loved sitting down and reading through pages of her handwriting.

    Nowadays she’s still living across the state, married with a baby, and busy-busy-busy! I’ve tried rekindling our letter writing, but life gets in the way for her. :-/

    My favorite part of books like Pride & Prejudice is the emphasis it places on letter writing and waiting on the mail carrier. It may be 2014, but there is still NOTHING like a handwritten letter.

    • I seriously wish my school had done that! And hahah I remember the strangest details too!
      I LOVE that you and your friend did that. That’s so cool! I had a notebook that my friend and I would pass back and forth bc I was at college so we’d give it to each other every time we saw each other which was like once a month or two.

      YES I always find it so charming when I read books where letter writing was how you really communicated.

  11. This is giving me flashbacks to my childhood. I loved having pen pals, hell I still do now. One of my online friends and I talk on various mediums, but our favorite is old fashion mail. I even tweeted recently that as much as I love receiving mail (and I mean, who doesn’t) I LOVE sending it, too.

    • That’s so fun that you do that even in this online age!! Sending letters is so much fun too. Though I’ve realized in doing wedding thank you cards and such that I have SUCH shitty handwriting now since I RARELY write.

  12. I totally did the pen pal thing too! In middle school I had a ton of pen pals from France, where I would write to them in French and they’d write back in English so we could practice writing in the languages we were both learning. It was so much fun, even though I was always nervous I’d make a stupid mistake (it’s intimidating writing in a different language to someone whose primary language it is!). I still do love to send letters to some of my blogging friends, but it’s kind of difficult because they don’t ever answer me! They answer with a text, which is so besides the point. I love receiving mail and hearing about my friends lives and seeing their handwriting because it feels so much more real and intimate. And I like to let people know I’m thinking about them or whatever, and sending something via snail mail just feels a lot more genuine.

    • Oh that’s a really cool way to learn a language!! I want to learn a new language so I’m kind of thinking I should find a pen pal from another country who would want to be up for that too!

      GAH yeah seriously..that takes the fun out of writing a letter if they email or text back! WHen things stop being so crazy here, we should totally write letters!

  13. AH! I used to have pen pals when I was younger, and it was so much fun! I have no idea what happened to the letters though. I’m sure my mom has them tucked away in a box somewhere. But I totally get what you mean about loving getting something in the mail- other than bills, am I right?! Ha! There’s nothing like getting books in the mail, but I hate when I don’t get anything whatsoever! I wait for the mail man every day, and it’s such a downer when there’s nothing but junk in there! Mostly, I wait for letters from my boyfriend who is a Marine stationed in Afghanistan right now. I cherish each and every one of them, and reread them constantly. I feel so much more connected to him through the letters we send each other. He may be thousands of miles away from me, but I’ve never felt closer to another person than I do with him. We make each other surprise care packages, and it is so much fun! I recently sent him a Hunger Games themed one (because he was reading them!) and included an item relating to each district in the box (i.e. district one is luxury so I sent toilet paper, district four is fishing so tuna fish, and district six transportation so I sent a copy of Divergent to transport him to another world!) He loved it! WOW! Sorry about the novel. Haha but pen pals are the best! Great post, girlie! <3

  14. There’s a bit of a movement right now to bring back pen-pals and hand-written letters, check out IG, ppl post gorgeous photos of the letters they send/receive! I’ve been asked to be pen pals with a girl on there and I’m really looking forward to getting creative and also receiving letters!

    And yes, I had pen pals, I think they were organised by our primary school. I had a boy in Italy and a girl in Canada and I still remember their names, but we lost touch, even after we swapped email addresses many years ago. But, I still think of them every now and then πŸ™‚

  15. I’ve never really had a pen pal, but I used to give notes to my cousins and friends. (I rarely mailed them–usually I just handed them over.) However, I did have a few friends who would send me a letter every now and then. It’s so fun to go back and reread those notes!

    I was definitely hoping that at the end of this post you would be hosting a pen pal program. I mean, you should totally do that. πŸ˜‰

  16. Nostalgia. When I was in elementary I used to have pen pals to, but I don’t mail it. I exchange letters with my friends and my cousins(I don’t even know if that counts.) Sometimes I get to meet new friends because my friends would ask me letters for their other friends. Nowadays, I just send emails to my bestfriend living in Canada. But looking back, you’re right. The feeling of anxiety whenever you receive letters is incomparable to clicking emails. πŸ™‚

  17. Yes!! I was the same, although I had slightly less. When I was younger, you could get these ost cards to fill out near the Hallmark cards and mail them in and get a pen pal (I’m 34). I had several overseas pen pals – one of whom found me on Facebook, which is still one of the best discoveries on FB to me. I had several pen pals from the States too, all of whom I’ve lost touch with, sadly. I have all their letters still, in a big tote box in the garage. Every so many years I look through them and get a kick out of the things we wrote.
    I, too, get nostalgic about writing letters. I try to send cards and postcards (even tho I never know what to say) because I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting mail. A few friends and I have done packages back and forth over the years and it is so fun! Great post! And I agree with JB, I was totally scrolling down to the bottom hoping you were hosting a pen pal program!
    P.S. Did you know April is National Card & Letter Writing Month?

  18. OMG! I’m so glad I’m not the only person who thinks of Steve and “Maaaaaiiiillll Time!” when there’s goodies in there. I even get excited at work over shipments of office supplies. Yes, I did the pen pal thing and sometimes still do. Mine started in high school though as my friends started deploying overseas after 9/11 (I grew up in a small town where the choices were military or college so there were plenty.) Now I pen pal with military personnel who may not have family or have requested care packages for various reasons. I love knowing I could make someone’s day and say thanks!

  19. I absolutely love getting things in the mail! I have one consistent penpal! And then like 3 or 4 ones that send letters when they get the time. I just love receiving and sending letters SO much!

  20. I wasn’t perhaps quite as insane as you (30?!?!) but I did keep in touch with people all over the world that I had met for quite a while. (I was really lucky and got to travel a lot, growing up). And I lasted for about two years sending letters to all my friends from back home, which was a lot of fun! I think a big part of getting something in the mail is usually it’s either bills (yergh), spam (boo), or packages you bought (which is still exciting, but there’s no mystery to it really). I miss writing letters! Maybe I should start again..

  21. Hi,

    I used to have A LOT of penpals, but as I grew up, I started to realise that I’d much rather have a handful of really close relationships than tons of half-hearted ones. So I cut down on my penpals, which was sad, as it was a big part of my life. It was also horribly expensive.

    I still have six or seven, but I don’t really consider them penpals any more. We’ve been writing for so long, and I’ve met half of them in person now; they’re just my friends. And very good ones too.

    It’s really easy to be friends with someone you see every day or just tweet regularly etc, but it takes a lot of commitment to maintain a letter-based friendship. I think having penpals has given me some of the best friendships, and I don’t think I would’ve found them any other way. Sending handwritten letters to the same person for eight years takes dedication.

    I miss having penpals abroad and would love to get to know someone new, but it’s so expensive, and the UK’s postal service keep putting the prices up. It goes up again on Monday. Boo! I still have one friend in Australia though. I miss having American penpals.

    Melanie.

  22. I always wanted a pen pal but the girl I was set up with didn’t respond to my letter. I don’t know what happened. But my bff lived far away so we used to send each other letters and cards. It was really nice. I know alot of bloggers that are pen pals the old fashion way and I’ve try to get people involved but I guess snail mail is dead. Sadface.

  23. I loved having a pen pal! In fifth or sixth grade, my class partnered with another class of the same grade at a different school and we each got a pen pal. It ran it’s course by the time school ended, but I wound hanging out with her a few times.

    My elementary school BFF and I were pen pals every summer since we lived on opposite sides of town. It always slowed down by the end of summer and we were able to pick up right where we left off every year.

    I would love to do something like this now. I LOVE getting mail, but I only ever get bills (ugh) or things I’ve ordered online. I’ve thought about signing up for a random one on a website but I have no idea how to talk to strangers. If someone put together a blogger one I would totally be on board.

  24. Pen pals are awesome! I had a couple as a kid too, and it was just fun to have these envelopes arriving in the mail. I was pen pals with one of my former best friends when we moved back to the Philippines for a while, though that died out pretty soon. I really wish that more people would get into writing letters! It would be fun to be getting them in the mail again πŸ™‚

  25. Wow! 30-40? I’m impressed. That I can remember, I had two pen pals that I kept up with for more than one letter. Since I was homeschooled, there was a pretty well-established network for pen pals, but a lot of them never bothered to write back. Also, I’m lazy about stuff like that. One girl was from Canada. She came to my church for one week while her parents were on vacation. We did actually end up becoming friends on Facebook years later. She’s married now, which is a little odd to me.

    The other girl, the only one I count as a legit pen pal, was from Ireland and her name was Grace. My children’s pastor went on a missions trip there and promised to get her a pen pal when he came back to the States. We exchanged letters and pictures, and once or twice we even sent cassette tapes back and forth with a recording of us talking. Reading your post made me think of trying to find her on Facebook, but I don’t remember her last name. Pity.

  26. HA. I don’t even remember the above conversation. I was like WHAT. But I trust you, I believe you and hello! I love pen palling… in fact, during the holidays, my dad was saying how he was set up with a pen pal from Australia during the NY World’s Fair in 1964. Isn’t that too cool? (He keeps remembering all of these strange details lately.) So maybe it’s not so much of a shock that I enjoy writing letters so much. We had a lot of pen pal projects in elementary school and one time we all sent letters to our classmate’s grandpa in Korea who was absolutely so sweet and so thankful and was a ton of fun to receive mail back from KOREA. Huge deal. πŸ™‚

  27. たびは と同様 私は小さい読み取るために使用される彼らの動機をクリアし、それがまた起こっています 私が読んでいる執筆の作品段落記事これで。
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