I will never forget my first pen pal, a young Israeli girl named Simcha. Her name means, “joy.” For a year of my childhood, there was nothing more thrilling than waiting for her letters. When one arrived, I would trace the Hebrew words with my finger, the outlines of her colorful drawings of flowers. My Hebrew school teacher was our translator, the link between two cultures.
From what I could gather, she was a girl like me. We were both in the uniquely innocent stages of preadolescence, both fans of nature, art and animals. But our written capacity was limited, and now, I can’t summon a single detail of what she was like. She must have enclosed a photo at some point, as well as I, but those must be long buried somewhere in my dusty archives.
Others of my happiest moments involved the US postal service. When, each August 16th, I desperately awaited my school schedule. When report cards were mailed out at the end of the year. When I received a birthday card or letter from a long-lost relative. A letter from a friend at camp or from a friend abroad. The mail was good. It was a time when no one was worried about wasted paper. The mailman was a friend that we knew well. We waited and waited, until we finally received.
What I do know now, is I rarely receive mail anymore. Besides certain bills and unanticipated official notices, everything is digitized. No more paychecks, no more postcards. With the birth of e-cards, gifs, and Facebook reminding you when to wish your acquaintance a happy birthday, the mail became obsolete. More than obsolete, it became shunned from society. When I was 17, I imagined receiving a huge packet from my dream school in the mail, but I was even notified of my college acceptance via email.
Now, communication knows no bounds. Messages can be sent overseas in mere nanoseconds and there’s no more checking the mailbox every day for something sweet. I have no idea who delivers my mail and we have no real bond. Since we’re gratified so instantly these days, we can’t feel long-term satisfaction.
Simcha and I lost touch long ago, but I’ve often wondered how her life turned out. But because I don’t even know how on Earth to track her down, I’m left clueless. I can read the news of her country, imagining her doing her military service. She’s probably married with a family by now, our epistolary stint long-forgotten. I think it’s better just to wonder. I wish her well.