When I was very young, I found an ad for a pen pal in the back of a Humane Society magazine. (I know this sounds weird, but bear with me.) She was my age and lived in Australia. She referred to her mom as “mum” and we sent each other coins from our native lands. It was fascinating for me to have such a close, personal encounter with someone so different from myself – someone who had different weather and used strange words. I became slightly obsessed with Australia, choosing to do a couple of school reports on it and reading every book I could get my hands on regarding the country.
(Many, many) years later, as an adult and mother, I have befriended a few women though the miracle of social media. I’ve touched upon it before when I mentioned that we have created little care packages from / for our girls. One woman and I kept up the tradition over the years, but decided it would be fun to include regional items in addition to the usual glow sticks, lollipops, stickers, and tattoos. Once we really started talking about the kind of foods that we feed our families and what the areas that we live in are like, we discovered how different things were on a daily basis for us. I’m a New England girl at heart, and she’s from Southern Louisiana. Suddenly, this became a learning experience not only for my daughter, but for me as well!
One of the last packages that we received contained roux, Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning, and a kick ass hand written recipe for gumbo. Have you ever heard of Cajun spaghetti sauce? Or Zapp’s chips? (They are INCREDIBLE.) And how had our pen pal never had real maple syrup? THE HORROR!
Picking out things for her pen pal, making homemade cards, going to the post office, and tracking our packages has been fun for both my daughter and me. In a world dominated by technology, where we see more email and less snail mail, I love that my little girl is able to experience the joy of an old-fashioned pen pal. And it’s possible that I’m having just as much fun as she is.