“Back in my day, we wrote letters with pens and paper… and we liked it!”

I met my pen pal Michelle when we were about 14. She was from Australia… the land Down Under… and it was very exciting.

Friendship booksI think we met through a friendship book that she saw my name in. If you’re not familiar with this process, it worked like this: Someone (another pen friend) would mail out a little handmade booklet that either they or someone they knew created. It would have questions in it about your likes/dislikes, such as “fave band”, where you lived, your address, etc.

When you received one of these booklets, you’d add your info to it… and send it on to someone else you knew… and so on. If you thought you had something in common with someone in the book, you’d write to them and see if they wanted to write to you, too. Michelle was a very prolific letter writer — much more so than my other pen friends. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She has always been awesome at this.

When we were about 16 (going on 17), Michelle came to the U.S. as an exchange student in the Midwest. Before she returned home to Australia, she flew to the East Coast to visit me and my family.

Mich & Cath, 1986
Yes… perms, bi-level haircuts and plaid jeans were in fashion in 1986. Sorta. ๐Ÿ˜‰

She also sent me a cool tape of Aussie New Wave hits (“Oz Rock”)… which I still have somewhere. I especially liked: Cold Chisel – Twentieth Century; Uncanny Xmen – Fifty Years; The Sunnyboys – Love in a Box; and Goanna – Razor’s Edge. My three favorites were: The Divinyls – Good Die Young; Kids in the Kitchen – Bitter Desire and The Saints – Ghost Ships…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oz MagnetIn the early ’90s, Michelle returned to the states and visited us again, this time in Illinois, where were were living at the time. And in the late ’90s, Michelle came for yet another visit with her new husband Darren.

Since the dawn of Facebook, we’ve been keeping in touch online. Sometimes she even comments on something I post here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks, Michelle!

As for all of my other pen pals… well, they came and went within a couple of years — if not months. We would write a few letters back and forth and then either become busy or disinterested in each other. Who knows….

I did have one other consistent pen pal for 12 years. His name was Franck and he was from the Burgundy region of France. We met when I was in 10th grade because our teachers — my French teacher; his sociology teacher(?) — knew each other and offered up their students as potential correspondents. Franck chose moi. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And in 1997, when I traveled to France with my sister for two weeks, I took an excursion via the TGV to meet him.

Franck et Amis, 1997

premiere lettrepar avion - 14 Nov. 1984Franck and his girlfriend invited me to stay overnight with them and didn’t complain at all when I began coughing my head off, having become ill due to the poor air quality of the airplane days earlier. Franck even sneaked off to the train station to change my return ticket to a later time… because he wanted a chance to hang out a bit longer. So sweet.

He bought me fresh croissants to eat for breakfast and invited two friends over for dinner; they were excited about meeting an American. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Franck’s girlfriend made quiche (kindly acknowledging that I was a vegetarian) and I watched Franck whip up some homemade vinaigrette dressing for the salad. He thought it was funny that I was so fascinated with his ability to make something from scratch.

Another letter from Franck

par avion - 1 Jan. 1985He and his friends took me on a tour of a local castle and they laughed at me for peeking through its keyholes and taking pictures of the countryside — which, of course, was stunningly beautiful. We stopped at a tavern along the side of the road and drank a French version of lemonade… and then when it came time to part, Franck drove me to the train station and sat beside me in the waiting room with his arm around me as we waited for my train to arrive…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We haven’t been in touch since that visit. Sigh….

C’est la vie!

My favorite old French song.
Comme l’eau
Comme l’eau qui court
Moi, mon coeur
Court aprรจs ton amour




3 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    I’ll write a reciprocal post one day ๐Ÿ˜‰ I remember the beginnings differently…wasn’t it Tiger Beat magazine ๐Ÿ˜‰


    1. Cath says:

      Hmm… I don’t remember that at all (how odd)… but I did read “Tiger Beat” back then! ๐Ÿ™‚ Please do refresh my memory if that is the case…. Can’t wait to hear your side of the story!


  2. robin says:

    what a lovely post and such memories to treasure!


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