Back in 1986, when I was around 11 years old, I remember getting a letter in the mail from one of my cousins in Mexico. Most of my mom’s family still lives in this small town called Tulancingo in the city of Hidalgo, Mexico, which is where I was born and lived until about age 2.
(Tulancingo is slightly above Mexico City, slightly to the right, under Pachuca with the red dot)
Well, you can imagine my excitement when I received this letter in the mail, I had never gotten a letter before, much less from Mexico! It seemed like such a faraway and exotic place to me. I remember the excitement I felt as I opened it up and then the confusion when I found I couldn’t understant what the letter said. You see, the letter was written in Spanish, and at the time I hadn’t learned to read Spanish yet, so my mom read the letter out loud to me. Well, from that day on I began a tradition that probably continued (consistently) until I was about 16 or 17 years old. I became pen pals with my cousins from Tulancingo that were around the same age as me. I also corresponded with one of my closest aunts, who is only 5 years older than me, but at the time, when I was 11 and she was 16, she seemed like one of the wisest people I knew.
My mom started to teach me to read/write Spanish and eventually I learned it well enough to be able to write my own letters without too much assistance. And these letters were the real deal, no quickie notes, we’re talking 3 pages of front and back writing, sometimes more. Oh how I remember the thoughts I would share with my cousins, and particularly my aunt, who I felt understood the woes and worries that teen me was going through. I remember that after I got my letter all sealed and ready to go, my mom would add the necessary stamps and off she would send it, while I patiently waited for my response. My letter would take approximately 2 weeks to reach it’s destination and then it would take maybe a few days to a week for my cousin/aunt to write back and then another 2 – 3 weeks for me to get it in our mailbox. Oh how I waited with anticipation and excitement for news from my cousins, to know what they were up to, to see what great words of wisdom my aunt would share. Those were special times, those pen pal days.
And then I remember when the internet came along and we were able to exchange emails and how much quicker that was and the day that one of my closest cousin’s told me that she could chat with me on instant messenger. Could this be real?! Could I, in the U.S., finally connect in the blink of a second with my cousin from this little town, our Tulancingo? Yes, indeed!
But somehow, something got lost…now that we could connect so much quicker, we became more disconnected. It’s been a while since I even IM’d with one of my cousins or my aunt, much less wrote them a letter, and as I was reminiscing today I realized how special those letters in the mail were, how unfortunate it is that it’s become a disappearing practice to grab a pen and paper and just write away.
And so I thought to myself, I think it’s time that I send an unexpected surprise to my cousins/aunt from the Postman/lady…
Photos courtesy of Google Image search