When I was a young girl, I was enchanted by the idea of having pen pals. This was the 1970s after all, when written letters were the best way to communicate long distance. Plus, growing up as a fat kid, I didn't feel like I had any sort of popularity; I had friends, some of whom I'm still friends with today, but I always felt like the outsider in any group of kids. Over the years I had various pen pals, most lasting just a short time before someone (usually them) stopped writing. I remember a boy from England, and a girl from Illinois whose sister started corresponding with my sister for a while.
There have been two pen pals with whom I am still in contact. I met Lisa through a pen pal match-up in Teen Magazine. She lived in Florida, which sounded so exotic to me. We had similar interests, and wrote back and forth over the years, through high school, college, and young adulthood. I was even lucky enough to be able to attend her wedding in 1993; it was fantastic to be able to meet her in person, meet her new husband, and her family, about whom she had written over the years. As life got busier, our correspondence dwindled, though we continued to exchange holiday cards and celebrated each other as our families grew - three boys for Lisa, two girls for me. When Facebook started getting popular, we found each other there and that has been a wonderful way for us to keep up with each other's lives.
My first and longest distance pen pal was a girl by the name of Bernadette from Australia. I had seen an ad for international pen pals in the back of one of my mother's magazines, and they matched me with Berni. It was so exciting to meet someone who lived so very far from Ohio. She would write to me about the goings on within her a large extended family, which fascinated me, as my family was very small. The letters and photos traveled back and forth over the years, though they too slowed down as life became more hectic. Berni and her husband Nev's family grew to a total of 5 children (ages currently ranging from 26 to 13), so the fact that she ever got a minute to write was truly a testament to her desire to keep up our correspondence. We've spoken by phone over the years; one of our most memorable calls occurred on September 11, 2001 when I was able to reassure her that I was fine, and we discovered that we were both watching the same images on CNN while on the phone.
Berni is not a techy type person at all; however, her kids are, of course, so I have gotten to know some of them via Facebook, and so Berni and I have communicated through them... as well as through emails at times. We used Skype once and plan to do it again but haven't coordinated our schedules with the time difference between us.
Given all of that, imagine my surprise when I got a message on Facebook from Mel, her oldest daughter, saying that for Berni's 50th birthday this year her kids were sending her to visit the US, including coming to see me and my family... wow... I could hardly believe my eyes. Berni and her son Dave ended up being the travelers; Mel sustained a back injury earlier this year that is healing but travel was nixed by her doctors.
What a fantastic opportunity this is! We have long dreamed about meeting but thought that it would likely take a lottery win for one of us to make it happen. Jim and I still want to visit Australia at some point in the not too distant future, but haven't set any goals/plans about that as of yet. The girls are extremely excited about meeting "Aunt Berni" and Dave, and my family is all excited too. One thing that Berni said they would like to do while in Cleveland is to attend a baseball game. Luckily, it happens that the time they are here overlap with some of our final home games of the season. We gathered a group of family and friends to all go together and it's Dollar Dog Night so everyone can enjoy some hot dogs, with stadium mustard (actually Ball Park Mustard) for those who like it. We'll take a little driving tour of the area, including seeing the house where I grew up, and maybe some other sights. Their visit here will be on the tail end of their trip, after several days of sightseeing in the eastern US and Canada, so I'm sure some relaxing chat time will be good.
My mind went into overdrive the moment I realized this visit was really happening. We've had lots of plans to fix up the house, to get the girls moved into their own rooms, to get rid of all the excess "stuff" we've accumulated over the years. Of course life doesn't work as smoothly as one's plans. There is a lot that's not going to get done before their visit, though the girls will be moved, thereby giving us two guest rooms to offer. We'd planned to get the girls' rooms repainted as part of that whole process, but we haven't gotten there yet and so we may just move them now and paint later. So then we basically need to clean, clean, and clean, and get stuff out of the common areas that doesn't belong. Exterior projects have been more successful, fortunately. We had already gotten a new roof this spring, a badly needed improvement. I had been itching to get a new front door, as a decorative piece of ours just fell off one day and could not be reattached. So we got a lovely new door with new side windows, which I really enjoy more than the old ones. And we contracted with the same company that did such a great job on our roof, to re-side the house. We have aluminum siding that was put up when the house was built in 1983 and it looks bad. The color has faded over the years from a bluish gray to barely white and chalky. There are some dents and the north side is pretty green from moss. We are getting vinyl siding in a medium gray color, in keeping with the Cape Cod style of the house. The new door is a burgundy-ish red so will look really good with it. The company called to tell us they are starting on Monday morning... so it will be done before Berni and Dave arrive. As we hadn't heard anything from them in a while and knew they were backed up with work, I figured that with our luck they would be here pounding away while we had our company.
Of course Berni has told me that she wouldn't care if I lived in a tent as long as she got to see me. I on the other hand would prefer to have the house the way I picture it in my mind's eye. Plus, I like the idea of feathering my nest as it were, so that I can just enjoy my home without worrying about so many projects. I have learned however to adjust my self-expectations so that I'm okay with what does get done and not overly stressed about it. Jim is one person and can only do so much. The girls can be helpful but can't be expected to spend all of their free time on home projects. I wish I had more time but that whole full-time job thing tends to keep me away from home longer than I would like. Also, despite the fact that I am on the whole doing well (last scans show continued stability and my oncologist appears to think this could last a while on my current drug treatment), I still get fatigued much more quickly than I used to. This is particularly frustrating to me, but is part of my reality.
At any rate, it's good, good news. And Mel is planning to use her unused airline tickets to instead visit a friend here in the US over the holidays and stop for a couple of days with us on her way back. For her, it will be hockey season so we are already planning to take her to a hockey game. She is hoping for snow while she is here, as where she lives that isn't something they experience. I hope we have a little, just for her, and then it can disappear for the rest of the winter. Snow... I do not love shoveling it, I do not love driving in it, I do not love dressing for it. However, since I love where we live and the fact that we have so much family close by, I'll stay.
More updates to come, and photos too!