While Jenny left Auckland to go back home, Frank and I had a special reason to stay. I was going to meet the pen pal I had been writing to since fifth grade!
Vanessa and I had exchanged countless letters as we journeyed through life – school years, boyfriends, graduation, jobs, marriage, children. As we got older, the letters were less frequent — we’d often disconnect for a decade at a time — but then she’d find me and we’d pick up right where we had left off. When Frank and I downsized a few years back, I came across all her old letters. Wouldn’t it be fun to send them to her? I thought it would be like having a “diary of her life” and was certain Vanessa (and her daughter) would love them. I tried tracking her down online but had no luck. I stuffed the letters back in a box.
Just before New Year’s 2014, Vanessa got ahold of me through my parents, who still had their same landline phone number. We talked for an hour and exchanged contact info. I sent her the old letters but there would be no more long, handwritten letters between us. Times had changed. We stayed connected through Facebook!
Then Frank and I decided to go to Australia and New Zealand. Would Vanessa and I finally get to meet in person? Unfortunately for us, she was living in Brisbane, which wasn’t on our list of destinations. I was thrilled when Vanessa decided to go “home” and surprise her dad after the holidays — while we were still in the country!
On January 25th, Frank and I arrived at an Indian restaurant belonging to a friend of Vanessa’s father. There she was smiling and looking beautiful in a bright yellow dress! We hugged tightly, enjoyed a wonderful meal and caught up on each other’s lives.
The next day, Vanessa toured us around Papakura. It had been a long time since she had been there and she enjoyed showing us her old haunts. I saw the home where all my early letters went, her schools and the home where her dad lives now. We met her dad, a lively cheerful man, who treated us to lunch and a live karaoke show at the RSA (Retired Servicemen Association).
After a lovely dinner at an oceanside restaurant, it was time to say goodbye. I was sad to leave but so thankful I got to finally meet the dear friend with whom I had shared so much. We laughed that it seemed like we had known each other forever, which, in reality, I guess we have!