How many of you had a penfriend as a child? How many of you still do?
Over the last thirty years I’ve had several. Some of them were “allocated” to me in school as I remember while others were sourced through various magazines over the years.
My first ever penfriend was a little girl from South Africa who lived on a farm and rode horses. We exchanged letters for a few years then as we moved into our teens the letters dried up, we both moved house and the new addresses were lost – the connection was broken. There was also a very scary boy from the Ivory Coast whose letters took a dark almost sinister turn and were ultimately returned “Not Known At This Address” to discourage him. I was terrified he was going to turn up on the front doorstep!
I also connected with three others from across the world- from Sweden, India and Greece- and am still in regular contact with them. For more than twenty five years we’ve written freely to each other about our lives, exchanged photos and “grown up” together from across the miles. No thought was ever given to the amount of personal data that was being shared.
Now we seldom write the lengthy paper letters of the past apart from a short scribbled note inside a birthday or Christmas card. We’ve all moved on to social media- to Facebook. Is this the modern equivalent of having a penfriend? In one way it is.
Over the last few months I’ve “met” several new friends, of similar age, similar interests (Ladies you know who I mean!) and from across the world on Facebook. We share stories, jokes and photos and connect on a regular basis. Where’s the difference?
Now that we are all connected through Facebook I began to wonder what it would be like if my three original penfriends could all “meet” each other. I’ve started a group chat with them in an effort to find out. It should be an interesting conversation as they are three very diverse lovely people. I hope it works….time will tell.
When it comes to penfriends though my mum and her penfriend Gail win hands down. They started exchanging letters in 1949 and they are still in regular contact with each other. Both of them were only nine years old when this friendship began. Over the past few years they have progressed to email instead of the flimsy thin blue airmail paper and envelopes of yester year. (I still find it amusing that my mum has her own pc.) They’ve also been fortunate enough to meet face to face several times over the last fifteen years or so, enjoying each other’s company as much in person as they have done for all these years on paper. It’s a very special friendship.
Who knows in time to come I may meet up with my three penfriends or with some of my newer Facebook friends but for now social media works just fine.