The Pen Pal

Olivia has a pen pal. The pen pal is a friend of mine, a woman who lives on the east coast. In the beginning of this school year, Olivia discovered that her best friend, a girl she’d known since kindergarten, wasn’t in her class, and Olivia was struggling socially without her. I told my friend about this, a woman I’ll call “Lisa,” and Lisa said, “How about I become Olivia’s pen pal? It’s not the same as a classmate, but she’d probably love to get mail.” 

Lisa was right. The highlight of Olivia’s week is now getting a letter from Lisa. The letter is never complicated: just news of Lisa’s family and the antics of her dog. “Listen to this,” Olivia said yesterday. “Lisa wrote, ‘My doggy is sitting on my lap. It’s his bedtime so he’s taking a nap before he goes to sleep!!’” Olivia laughs. “Isn’t that crazy, Mom? A nap before bedtime?” I agree that it is.

Olivia wrote back a letter telling Lisa about the hardwood floor being installed in our house: “Already I am concerned about the noise from the sawing. It is shrill and I mean shrill! I have to put on headphones.” She drew a picture of herself wearing headphones, and for good measure, drew a picture of a flower for Lisa’s husband and a leprechaun with a pot of gold for Lisa’s dog. Underneath the pot of gold, she added a caption: “The luck of the Irish even though it is not St. Patrick’s Day.” She sealed the letter and together we walked down the hill to the mailbox and dropped it in.

The loveliest moment of my day. 

There are side benefits to having a pen pal. Olivia practices autonomy: She picks out her own box of stationery (flowers, usually yellow) and is allowed to choose her own stamp. (She currently favors selections from the “Distinguished Sailors” series.) We discuss how much the stamp costs and how much work is involved in delivering a letter, especially across the country. Olivia is more confident in her ability to tell a story; her penmanship has improved. She understands the responsibility of writing a note simply because someone far away is hoping for one. 

Olivia has a new best friend in this year’s classroom. Whether that’s directly due to her pen pal  or some other reason, I don’t know. Nevertheless, to her pen pal, if you’re reading this, I say “thank you.”

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2 Responses to “The Pen Pal”

  1. Lisa says:

    Well you both put a smile on my face tonight! Having Olivia as
    my pen pal has given me the renewed pleasure of writing with pen and paper
    and becoming more present to her 3000 miles away.
    I too look forward to opening my letterbox and finding sunshine among the junk and bills. Olivia will have lots of new best friends and one forever
    Tia Swab.

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the comment! We love you, Tia Swab!
    Your pen pals and friends forever,
    Jessie and Olivia

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