Friday, May 1, 2009
Years ago when I was an avid writer of letters, with a list of penpals longer than my arm, I struck up a correspondence with a young lady from Montana. Her name was Anna.
Our acquaintance lasted a brief time only: Anna's accounts of her sixteen unruly siblings unsettled my nerves in a vague but particularly effective manner.
I suspect, however, that I was most disturbed by an offhand comment regarding my penpal's Irish ancestors.
The village of their origin was two miles from my own.
The casual air with which the familiar name was written, the utter lack of surprise or reference to my own locality struck me as most singular- as I read the latest letter I had the distinct impression that Anna from Montana was behind me.
But I was quite alone, save for innumerable goosebumps.
I never again wrote to Anna from Montana, thoroughly uneasy as I was about her far-reaching geographical knowledge.
I confessed my fears to another penpal, who lived in the United States and who simultaneously sympathised and expressed relief that she no longer had to share me: we were becoming closer with each new letter and I had previously indicated to her my doubts about Anna from Montana. Eventually, as one penpal after another slipped off my radar, she took priority and we became friends. Soon we increased the frequency of communication by sending e-mails as well as letters, and contact was regular.
Shortly after, around the time that Anna must have understood that I terminated the correspondence, my house began to suffer many a power cut that switched off the computer and caused a half-composed e-mail to be forfeited forever; my friend suffered just the same when attempting to send me a note.
Either my telephone was functioning poorly or hers was at any given time; we would find ourselves disconnected abruptly from a lively discussion.
Packages sent between us would take longer than necessary to reach their destination and we would grow anxious.
My friend had this to say each and every time, and I went along with it: "Anna from Montana is at it again. She's trying to keep us apart."
Nine years later we have done quite well: my penpal in Maine has become my dearest friend, has named both her sons on my recommendation, has introduced me to her loved ones, has adopted Spouse and I as neighbours, has shared with us secret family recipes, has comforted us in times of deep sorrow, embarked on her first and only airplane flight to see us in California, and made us guests of honour on her wedding day.
And once in a while an e-mail will still be lost along the way, or a meeting will not happen as planned, or the electricity will disconnect and plunge us into darkness in which we can write nothing- and we invariably blame Anna from Montana, poor thing, for the inconvenience.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:31 PM