Before ball-point pens came along

When you reached the third grade at

St Leo’s School,

You received a fountain pen and

a small bottle of ink,

That resided in a hole on top of your desk,

And your penmanship lessons were

Written in dark blue ink–

And for myself, a leftie, resulted

In smudges all over my left hand;

I always had to lay a blotter

Under my hand

Whenever writing letters,

To keep the script from smearing.

Even so, writing with a pen and ink

Was a most exciting discovery.

** And writing to penpals

Opened a whole new world to me.

My first penpal was a 4th cousin

In Detroit, with whom I became

Acquainted when we visited her

Family, the summer before I turned

Ten years old.

Other penpals followed, a steady

Stream that grew until, as an adult,

I began typing letters

Instead of writing them longhand.

When I turned 25 I became penpals

With a young wife and mother

In Australia. We have survived

Many crises in our lives,

Over the years and finally met

In 1980 when I lived in Florida;

It was a surreal experience,

Like putting a face and voice

To the thoughts and dreams

Of someone you have known

For decades.

We still exchange letters but now

Or correspondence is peppered

With the aches and pains of

Old age.

And now, there is email

And a host of new friendships

And a constant stream of

Instant messaging,

But I still get a thrill

At the sight, in the mailbox

Of a handwritten letter

Written by a penpal.


Sandra Lee Smith

February, 2009


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