The Joy of Pen Pals



To some people having pen pals is a foolish waste of time.  Many who do receive a name may write to the other person maybe three or four times and then give up, never hearing from their pen pals again or continuing a correspondence that could develop into a lasting, loving relationship.  I happen to fall into the third category; those who have continued writing to their pen pals.  You may hear of us on the news every so often i.e. the American woman who finally met her Japanese pen pal after 50 years, a half century, of correspondence.  Or the boy and girl who begin writing when they’re 12 and marry at 22.

My first experience with pen pals began when I was a 14-year-old eighth grader.  My brother and I had been watching a show on PBS called Big Blue Marble every Sunday morning.  One feature of the show was to interview a young person from a foreign country, showing his or her hobbies and daily activities.  After which an address was given for Dear Pen Pal, a worldwide organization based in Santa Barbara, California.

Here I am in my 8th grade class photo.

After watching this sequence for months, I took the plunge in December 1974.  I sent my name, age, sex, address and hobbies to the address on the screen and waited…and waited…and waited.  Finally, on 10 June, 1975, I received a post card with the name and address of my new pen pal.  Her name was Blossom Knight, she was 15 years old and lived in a town called Clarendon in Jamaica.

The post card from Dear Pen Pal, a little worse for wear.

Wow! I thought, Jamaica!  How exotic!  That afternoon I sat on the porch and tried to begin a letter.  It was difficult at first since I’d never written a letter before to anyone, let alone a total stranger.  My brother tried to help by suggesting I ask her what kind of flower she was.

After a while my first letter was completed and taken to the post office.  Two weeks later, I received a reply.  Blossom introduced herself, saying how happy she was that we’d started writing and that she thought I was “a very handsome girl” (I’d sent her my photo in my first letter).  She told me about her parents — Carol, a hairdresser, and Stanley, “a man who works on ship” — her brothers and little sister Nicole, who was about four at the time.

Blossom (on the Right) and friend Mazzie

B also told me that she wanted me to be her “one and only pen friend forever”, which delighted me to no end.  At last, after 15 lonely years, I had a friend.  I had someone who accepted me for me, no questions asked, who signed her letters “Your pen friend Blossom, the girl who really loves you” and “Your forever-friend Blossom”.  For about four months we continued to write back and forth, but then sadly, one day, her letters stopped.  By that time, I was a 15-year-old high school freshman.

In March of 1976, still eager to have a pen pal, I asked Marilyn McCarthy — my French teacher — to get me a pen pal in France.  I reasoned that since that was the language I was presently studying, what better place to write someone.  Marilyn had for some time been acquiring foreign pen pals for her students, so I gave her the .75¢ it would cost and hoped I’d gain a new friend soon.

On 4 May, as I was about to leave for my next class, my teacher asked me if I’d like to have a pen pal in Malaysia instead of France.  Malaysia!!!  Good lord, I’d never heard of the place!!  I told Marilyn I’d think about it but by the next morning had decided to give it a shot and was given the post card with the name and address of my pen-pal-to-be.  That afternoon I went home and typed up an introductory aerogramme letter.

My pen pal’s name was Karen Shepherdson and I received my first letter from her on Saturday, 19 June, 1976.  It was my mother who took in the mail but when she saw “Malaysia” on the envelope, she was even more excited than I was.

Karen at age 15

Karen and I continued writing, getting closer with each letter.  She told me about her family, her classes at school and the customs of her country.  We began to teach each other French and Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Karen’s country.  I found it most interesting and eagerly looked forward to each new lesson.

Then suddenly, one day, I heard again from Blossom!!!  She apologized to no end, saying that she’d lost my address, thus the reason I hadn’t heard from her in so many long months.  She told me she was doing well in school and she hoped all was well with me, too.  I was to send her all my good news and tell her everything that had happened since we last heard from each other.  Happily, I sat down to write.

The years passed and we all graduated high school in 1979.  Karen and I both got jobs, she at a newspaper in Kuala Lumpur and I at a department store in Philadelphia, and Blossom went on to a teacher’s college in Jamaica.  Then it was K’s turn not to write.  In the next two years, I saw my first Broadway play, had several other jobs and began work on a stage play of my own.

Class of ’79

In the late summer of 1980, Blossom sent me some fantastic news — she was pregnant and she and her fiancé Huntley O’Gilvie would be getting married soon.   They were married on 20 December of that same year.  I heard from her in January and she gave me her new address and told me how she was feeling; being pregnant, how the baby moved, etc.  I couldn’t have been more happy and excited than if I were pregnant myself, especially since I was to be the baby’s god-mother.  Tragedy struck, however, for my god-daughter — born on 29 May, 1981, and named Isheika O’Gilvie — only lived a half-hour after birth.  Blossom was heartbroken and, although we were miles apart, I shared her grief and cried for the child I’d never seen.

On 17 August, 1981, the day before my 21st birthday, I received my present from B and a post card from Lincoln, Nebraska.  Lincoln, Nebraska?!  Who on Earth did I know there???  I read the postcard.  It said — “Dear Gina, Surprised — I hope.  It’s me — your long-lost pen friend.  I’m in the States.  Wanted to surprise you.  I’m going to school at the University of Lincoln, Nebraska this fall semester.  Great, huh!  Sorry for not have been in touch with you.  Please forgive me….I have so much catching up to do.  I do hope you’re not angry for long silence.  I’d love to hear from you again.  Take care.  Karen.”

It was more than I’d hoped for!!!  She was only about 1,500 miles away instead of 15,000!!!  How I longed to call her, but Mum pointed out that she might not be home and to find out first when the best time would be to call.  More excited than I’d ever been, I sat down and wrote Karen a three-page letter on legal paper, telling her everything that had happened in the last two years.  I gave her my telephone number just in case she wanted to call first, as well as the times I’d be home.

On 23 August, I was entertaining a friend from school and his sister.  Paul, Terri, my brother and I were chatting about how much money Christopher Reeve was making for his three Superman films when the telephone rang.  I thought nothing of it until Mum ran into the room from the kitchen.

“Quick, get on the phone,” she said, “I think it’s Karen!”

Scarcely breathing I ran to pick it up.

“Hello,” I said.

“Yes,” came this light, sort-of-British voice, “is this Gina?”

“Yes, it is.”

“This is Karen.”

Well, needless to say, I nearly fell off my seat!  It was just unbelievable!!!  I was really talking to a girl I’d only known through letters.  We chatted for about five minutes, comparing our voices to the ones we’d imagined for so long.  She told me how she’d gotten stranded in the San Francisco airport because of the air traffic controllers’ strike and she and her brother Kevin and his wife had to stay with relatives until the strike ended.

That night I went to bed on such an emotional high that I couldn’t sleep a wink.  I went to work the next morning with a smile on my face from ear to ear.  I got a letter from Karen about a week later — she’d been just as thrilled as I about our brief phone conversation.  She was enjoying her classes but was terribly homesick.

In October, an advertisement appeared in a local newspaper.  It was a letter from a Korean teacher under the headline Korean Teacher Seeks Pen Pals.  It said that anyone interested in having a pen pal in South Korea of around high school age or older should send his or her name, age, sex, etc., to the address listed.

What could I lose?, I thought to myself and mailed my request the next day.

The months passed once more.  Blossom was pregnant again and the baby was due in April.  She wrote and said she was scared and asked me to pray that all went well this time.  I promised I would.  On 14 April, 1982, Huntley Andez O’Gilvie — my god-son Dayne — was born.  He was a plump, healthy, beautiful baby boy and I was so happy I cried.  She sent me a picture of him.  He was the cutest little bugger I’d ever seen and I loved him in an instant.

Dayne at 4 months, August, 1982

On 16 August, two days before my twenty-second birthday, I received a wonderful surprise.  In the mailbox that day was a letter from Taegu City, South Korea.  It began “Dear Gina, This letter from a complete stranger will surprise you so much.”  Surprised was hardly the word.  After ten months I’d given up hope, thinking my request had either been lost in the post or sent to the wrong address.  And yet here I was reading a letter from third and newest pen pal.

Her name was Young-Ae Park, she was twenty-one years old and was the fourth of seven children.  She lived with her parents and siblings in Taegu, South Korea and was majoring in Tourism at a local university.  Much to my surprise, her English was fantastic.

My 3rd pen pal, Young-Ae, from Taegu, South Korea

Karen and I, in the meantime, had been trying to set a date on which we’d be able to meet face to face.  We’d talked on the phone two or three times a year since her arrival in the States but thus far nothing had worked.  Then in the summer of 1983 she asked me what my plans were for Christmas vacation.  As Thanksgiving, Christmas and then New Years 1984 came and went, I had yet to hear from K.  Finally, in mid-January, I got a long-awaited letter from her.

She apologized for not getting in touch with me sooner.  She said she’d been all set to come for a vacation at Christmas but had to cancel her plans the last minute because of some problems that had developed unexpectedly in Lincoln.  I began to wonder if we’d ever get together.  K would only be in the States until the end of May, 1985, which only left us one summer and one Christmas.  I hoped we’d be able to work something out soon.

In February, I received wonderful news from Blossom.  She was pregnant once again; this time the baby was due in August.  B said she wished for two things — that the baby be a girl and that it be born on my birthday.  I smiled, thinking how ironic it would be if that really happened.  But, on 18 August, 1984, my twenty-fourth birthday, Blossom gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter.  She named her Shenoy Andrean O’Gilvie but called her Rackaye.

My first pic of Rackaye at age 2 — Dayne was 4.

The next week I wished Young-Ae a happy anniversary; we’d been writing for two years.  I got a call again from Karen.  Kevin had graduated a math major and was working part time.  The company he was working for might transfer him at any time and K had begun looking for a new apartment — something smaller, she said, perhaps an efficiency.  She promised to let me know about Christmas vacation.

I didn’t hear from her again until 11:50 PM, 16 February, 1985.  Karen apologized again for not getting in touch sooner, but she’d been busy.  Kevin had returned to Malaysia in December and was working with his father at the National Electricity Board in Kuala Lumpur.  He was also doing some modeling for a local magazine.

She, on the other hand, had been apartment hunting and had moved into an efficiency on New Year’s Eve.  By the time she settled in and then classes began again, she’d had no time to write.  But she just had to call this time.

“Gina, guess what?!” she cried excitedly, “I’m coming in May!!!”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’d see one of my best friends for the first time in nine years in just twelve weeks!!!  It seemed like a dream!  When it got down to six weeks I began counting the days; for some reason time seemed to go faster that way.

Finally, on 15 May, 1985 — four days after she graduated with honours and distinction from the University of Nebraska — my parents and I drove to the Philadelphia International Airport to pick Karen up.  I stood by the big windows waiting for the plane to land.  My stomach churned and I shivered from excitement.  My hands were like blocks of ice.

At last, at 12:43 PM, it pulled up in front of gate E-10.  I can’t even remember if I breathed as I watched the door.  One after another tall businessmen in three-piece suits, each one carrying a briefcase, came out to be greeted by family or friends.  Finally, I spotted a small person with short, dark brown hair wearing a white print blouse.

“Karen!” I called.

She looked over and smiled broadly.

“Gina!” she cried and we raced into each other’s arms.

We hugged tightly, hardly able to believe we were together at last.  It had taken us nine years and over 15,000 miles but we were together.  Fate had finally smiled on us.  Karen and I held hands and stood at arm’s length looking each other over, then we giggled and hugged again.

Karen and I at the Philadelphia International Airport, 15 May, 1985

I introduced K to my parents.  Dad took a couple of photos of us together and then we walked back to the car.  She and I giggled like two schoolgirls all the way home.  We discovered to some amusement that our hands were nearly the same size and that we both wore a size 5 shoe.  We joked about our other similarities, too, and called each other the Nurk Twins, a homage to the nickname John Lennon had given himself and Paul McCartney when they were teenagers.

Gina and Karen

When we reached home, Karen gave us all some little presents, souvenirs from Lincoln, then we had lunch and afterwards went outside to sit on my back patio.  My next-door neighbors and an acquaintance from down the street came and I introduced K to everyone.

My brother got home from work at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital at about 4:00.  After supper, we sat around watching Wheel of Fortune and chatting during commercials.  At 9:00, we watched the cliffhanger season finale of Dynasty and after cut the graduation cake we’d gotten Karen.  She was thrilled by all of it as she opened the presents on the table.

At last, we went to bed.  Since both of us were still too excited to sleep, Karen and I talked till 1:00 in the morning.  To me it was still like a dream, being together with her at last, a dream I’d had so often in the past.

The next day — 16 May — my father took us to the Philadelphia Zoo.  We ate pretzels and walked around and a llama almost ate my hair!  Karen and I had a fabulous time.  Just as we walked back to the car on our way home, it started raining.  By Friday the rain came down in sheets so, since we couldn’t do any sightseeing, we went into the city to visit my aunt and grandmother and some cousins who lived a short distance away.

The llama behind me trying to eat my hair!!!!!

By Saturday, K and I had become inseparable, spending every moment together that we could.  She wanted to go on a subway ride so we took a bus to 69th Street Terminal then got on the El, getting off at the Gallery in Philadelphia.  We had a ball!!!  We started on the bottom level of the mall, walking passed all the different shops and stopping in a few of them, and worked our way to the top just as the sun popped out of the clouds.  We had our picture taken with a cardboard replica of President Reagan and ate French Fries with cheese sauce and bacon bits.

On the 19th, my brother drove us to Wildwood, NJ, to visit my cousins who lived there.  They were very happy to meet K and gave her a t-shirt with the name of the motel they owned on it.  Later, we went on the boardwalk.  We had a computer portrait done then she went on one amusement with my brother and one with me.  After which we all played a game of miniature golf.

The next day, Karen and I went to Cardinal O’Hara high school to visit Marilyn McCarthy.  Marilyn was delighted to meet K.  Before we went upstairs to her next class, we stopped to see Fr. Francis Corkery, who’d been my Russian History teacher in my Junior year.  We talked and laughed and then said our farewells as K, Mar and I went on upstairs.

The class consisted mostly of sophomores and a few juniors, as it was second year French.  They seemed most interested to learn that Karen and I were pen pals and that we’d just met after nine years of correspondence.  They asked her all sorts of questions about herself and her country and she answered them all, even drawing on the blackboard some of Malaysia’s native costumes and giving a small sample of Bahasa Malaysia.

After an hour, Karen and I said goodbye.  My Dad was waiting outside as we planned to go into the city again to see all the historical sites.  Our first stop was Betsy Ross’s house, then Elfreth’s Alley, Olde City Hall, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion.  We were both fascinated by all of it — she with the historical significance of the various places and I more with the architecture of the old buildings — and we snapped pictures left and right.

Later that night, after supper, K and I listened to the movie soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar.  It was the first time she’d heard it and she found it as entertaining as I did.  Then, while she took her shower, I dug out of a drawer the original copy of the very first story I ever wrote.  I began leafing through it to refresh my memory and couldn’t believe it was I who had written it.  By the time K got out of the bathroom I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe and my sides ached as if they were being compressed.

“What’s the matter, Gina?” she asked.

All I could do to answer was point at the manuscript.  By the time Karen finished reading, both of us were rolling on the beds nearly in hysterics.  In a little while, after we calmed down, she told me she thought it was very good — considering I’d only been 13 when I wrote it — and she’d really enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, 21 May, was a very sad day for us.  Karen’s plane back to Lincoln would be leaving at about 4:30 PM so we still had a few hours together.  We sat outside on the patio for a little while just talking, then we took a walk to the shopping centre a few blocks from my house.

We stayed there for about an hour, browsing in a few of the stores, then went back home for some lunch.  After, Karen and I went up to my room where we made an audio cassette of us talking.  I gave K a French lesson — although I’d forgotten most of the language after eight years — and she gave me a lesson in Malay.

At 3:00, my father arrived to take Karen to the airport.  Mum didn’t come with us since she wanted to give K and I more time to ourselves, so she said her farewells and we left.

We got to the airport and Gate E-10 with no problem.  As we sat waiting for her plane to land, K’s expression became sadder and sadder and she seemed to be lost in memories.  I, too, recalled with fondness the past six days.

It was late, but her plane to Lincoln arrived at last.  Karen and I hugged each other tightly and promised we’d keep in touch and wouldn’t cry.  That was easier said than done.  As Dad and I left K to board the plane, my eyes teared and a big lump rose in my throat — how I missed my friend already!!!

“Selamat Tinggal, Karen,” I thought to myself, for that’s Malay for farewell.

At 10:00 that night, I got a call from K.

“Guess where I am, Gina,” she said.

“In Omaha?” I replied.

“No, I’m at the Best Western Hotel in Philadelphia!”

I almost dropped the phone!  She went on to explain that the passengers of her flight had been put on and taken off the plane several times and then the airport had been closed due to an electrical storm.  By that time she discovered, much to her distress, that she’d missed all her connecting flights and was stranded in Philadelphia!!!  The airport personnel had compensated, however, and got her a room at the Best Western.  A car was to pick Karen up at 7:00 the next morning.  Once more, we said farewell.

Ten days later, Karen left the United States for Selangor, Malaysia, where her parents, brother and sister were living.  In spite of many attempts to write her over the next two years, I heard nothing.  I tried various places in the hopes of contacting her again but to no avail.  Meanwhile, Young-Ae began work at the New Jong Ro Tourist Hotel in Taegu as a desk clerk. Eventually she met and married Kyung-Wan Han and had a beautiful little girl named Sung-Youn.  Our correspondence began to diminish and one day her letters stopped altogether.

Young-Ae at the New Jong Ro Tourist Hotel

Young-Ae with Kyung-Wan Han at their traditional Korean wedding ceremony.

Young-Ae with Kyung-Wan at their Western wedding ceremony.

Young-Ae with Sung-Youn at 9 months old.

Sung-Youn at 9 months.

Sung-Youn’s 1st birthday.

Family Portrait

What a cutie pie!!!

Of my original three pals, only Blossom and I continued our friendship.  The kids grew like weeds and before I knew it, they were teenagers and graduating high school.  By way of surprising me, on 16 August, 2004, Dayne left Jamaica and moved to New Castle, Delaware, to be with his fiancée Maureen Richards.   Maureen had been married before and had two lovely children, a 12 year old son named Dayshawn and a 4 year old daughter named Kameela.  She and Dayne were married on 15 September.

In early January, I got a mysterious phone call.  The first time he called, I hadn’t gotten home from work yet so my brother told me I had gotten a call from “Dane” in Delaware.  Well, I was completely stumped as the only “Dayne” I knew lived in Jamaica.  The next morning my mystery caller rang again.  After I said hello he said —

“Hi, this is Dayne.”

To which I replied —

“Dayne who?”

I must have sounded like a total airhead but I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the man on the phone was my god-son.  It was just so out of the blue!!!!!  He patiently replied —

“From Jamaica.”

— and that broke the ice.  We talked and laughed for maybe 25 minutes — the longest conversation we’d ever had!!!  Dayne told me about his move in August and his marriage and said before hanging up that he hoped we could get together soon.

Well the months went by and in June Blossom and I celebrated our 30th anniversary, not as friends but as sisters.  It seemed hard to believe we’d known each other for three decades!!!!!  Where had the years gone???  By early August, I suggested to my parents at dinner one night that for my birthday I’d like to get together with Dayne and Maureen.  They thought it was a wonderful idea and I called them later to make the arrangements.  Both were excited and I was about to jump out of my skin!!!

The morning of 21 August, 2005, I awoke an absolute wreck from sheer excitement.  My folks, brother and I had a very light breakfast and got ready to meet up with my god-son and his wife at a nearby Red Lobster restaurant at 3:00.  At a little after 2:00, I started videotaping a home movie for Blossom.  We all spoke to her on the tape and I gave her a little video tour of my house.  At about 2:35 we started out for the restaurant, which is about 10-15 minutes away.  However, we got only five minutes out when I realized I forgot to take the wedding gift we got for Dayne and Maureen!!!!!  So, back we went, I got the gift and we started out again.  Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at Red Lobster.  I took an outside clip of the place to show Blossom and we all went in to see if my god-son had arrived yet.  Turned out he hadn’t.

My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t recognize him and I wondered how much he’d changed since the last photo I had of him.  As we sat waiting, several couples came in but the men were all middle-aged and kind-of portly so I didn’t think any of them were correct.  Then the outer doors opened and a young couple came in.  What joy I felt — I knew my baby as soon as I saw him!!!!!  He looked just like his high school graduation picture!!!!!  I hugged Maureen first then Dayne — we both laughed because we gave each other bouquets of roses!!!  My brother kept the video camera rolling and got everybody hugging and saying hello.  Since the dish set/wedding gift was rather heavy, I had Dayne take it as we all headed into the dining room.


Dayne and Maureen, 21 August, 2005

Dayne, Maureen and Aunt Gina.

Dayne and Maureen with Mum.

Our first extended family photo.

Dayne and Maureen with their cake and wedding gift.

The wedding present we got for Dayne and Maureen.

Dinner was a blast!  We sat around talking about everything and eating up a storm!!!!!  Dayne said that he still had every present I’d sent him over the years — all the books and especially a toy race car I’d gotten him when he was maybe four or five years old.  Maureen and I started forming a lasting friendship that day that’s only gotten stronger.  Since it was my birthday weekend, we cut a cake for me and kept videotaping for Blossom.  All too soon, however, it was time to go home.  Dayne hugged me and said he was missing me already.  He was so adorable and such a loving, respectful young man and I loved him more every minute.

When we got home, I finished the video tape for Blossom around the outside of my house.  I had that and the still photos we’d taken all developed the next day.  I sent Maureen the DVD and she made two copies, one for Blossom and an extra one as a backup for me.  A few weeks later, I heard from Blossom, telling me how much she enjoyed the video and that she kept watching it over and over again.  She also said that when Dayne called her to say what a terrific time he’d had and how great it was to meet all of us, she had tears in her eyes.  She put the 8×10 framed group shot photo I sent her in her living room and told me that whenever she passed by she looked at the photo and said — “Hello, my sister!”  Needless to say she had me crying, too!!!!!

The months passed and in January, 2006, Maureen sent me some photos she’d taken when she’d gone back to Jamaica for her grandfather’s memorial service.  She also included photos of her children Dayshawn, who was 14 at the time, and Kameela, who was just six.  He was a handsome boy with a look of vast intelligence on his face and she was as cute as a button.  I fell in love with both on the spot.


Dayshawn and Kameela

We kept in touch all winter and then, the following August, I thought we’d start a tradition and meet up again at Red Lobster,  This time the kids were supposed to come and we were all looking forward to meeting them.  Unfortunately, they were spending the weekend with their Dad at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and got back too late, so we had to wait until the next get together.

Anyway, the second dinner was just as much fun as the first and I couldn’t stop hugging Dayne!!!  We took more photos and another video for Blossom.  I got a great pic of Dayne and Maureen together and had it blown up and framed for his Mum again.

Dayne and Maureen, 20 August, 2006

Blossom loved the second video as well and put the second photo next to the first.  During our dinner, Maureen told us she and Dayne planned on getting Visa’s for B, her husband and daughter, none of whom has ever left the island, and surprise them with plane tickets.  That, unfortunately, didn’t work out.

The months passed again.  Our third dinner in September, 2007, had to be cancelled the last minute because my dad got sick that morning.  We were all disappointed as we were looking forward to seeing each other and meeting the kids.

Off and on over the years I continued my search for both Karen and Young-Ae.  On the 17th of June, 2008, a thought suddenly popped into my head — search for them on Facebook!!!  I had no luck with Young-Ae, however, when I typed in Karen’s name, lo and behold a half dozen “Karen’s” popped up!!  I immediately discounted a few of them for various reasons (age, location) but one had the very name of my long-lost friend.  I decided to send her a message and hoped I’d hear.  On a whim I began to look at her friends list and almost fell off my seat — there, looking absolutely STUNNING was K’s little sister Kerry!!!!!  The pretty teenager I’d known who had written briefly with my brother had blossomed into an amazingly beautiful woman!! I quickly sent her a message as well.

The next day (Malaysia time) I heard from Kerry, who was very surprised to have gotten my message.  She promised to call Karen immediately to tell her I’d gotten in touch.  She, too, was thrilled that we’d all reconnected after 23 years.

Four days later I finally heard from Karen!!  It was one of the best messages I’ve ever gotten on Facebook — she was just as excited and happy as I was.  Apparently she’d sent me mail once she returned to Malaysia, as I had done with her, but for a reason that will forever remain a mystery our letters never reached each other.  Now we were in touch again and would remain so thanks to this wonderful electronic age of Facebook and e-mail.  Over the next few weeks I learned that Karen had married a man named Edmund and had two children, a boy Tim who was 11 and a girl named Tracy who was 9.

The months passed again and on 21 October, 2008, my beautiful niece Rackaye and her fiancé became the proud parents of a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  He weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 19 inches long.  They named him Rolando Keniel Gayle, Jr. but called him Josh.  In December, Maureen and I arranged our third dinner at a Red Lobster in Delaware.  We met up on the 28th, the Sunday before New Year’s — this time Kameela came.  I must admit I was expecting an out-of-control 8-year-old girl but happily got the total opposite.  My little niece was absolutely adorable — she was very quiet and shy and Maureen said she was very nervous that day.  Like her brother Dayshawn, I found Kameela to be thoughtful and intelligent and an absolute delight to be around.  As usual, we took another video for Blossom and plenty of still photos.  We exchanged presents and had a wonderful time; Dayne and Maureen bought two copies of Pegasus, which I happily autographed, and Kameela loved her “Kameela Bear” Build-A-Bear that was the inspiration for the Princess Bear in the book.

Baby Josh, October, 2008

Kameela with Kameela Bear, 28 December, 2008

Blossom, Rackaye and Josh, July, 2010

Rackaye and Kenny, 17 September, 2010

My gorgeous nephew Dayshawn, Fall 2010

In the months since everyone is doing well.  Dayshawn graduated high school and Kameela made the honour role at her school; I’m getting closer to both all the time.  Josh is growing like a weed and will be turning two in October.  Rackaye and Kenny married in November, 2009.  Karen and I are still happily in touch and hope to stay so.  My search for Young-Ae continues but I still have hopes of finding her again.  You can find a short write-up on us at —  As for my book, sales are coming slowly but surely.  As I finish this story, the artwork is being redone in colour by Stephanie Zuppo, my genius artist, friend and little sister.  I’m really looking forward to the final results.

Well, I hope you’ve all enjoyed this story, dear readers, and that you won’t give up on your pen pals.  I have the best friends I will ever have and am so thankful for them in my life.  Keep checking back for any important updates.


Gina xxoo

10 September, 2010

Here are some recent pics of my family.

Blossom in April, 2011

Rackaye and Kenny, Summer 2011

Josh (now Harry) on his first day of school, September, 2011

Dayshawn, summer 2012

Family pic of Kenny, Rackaye and Harry.

A very pregnant Rackaye, August, 2012.

Arianna Amelia Gayle came into the world at 6:54 AM, 27th September, 2012. She weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces. ^_^

Arianna Amelia #2

Arianna at home. I think she was looking at her big brother Harry. ^_^




9 thoughts on “The Joy of Pen Pals

  1. You had me in tears I love it so much and u couldn’t have said it any better. You are one of the best thing that could have ever happen to us and we love u a lot…..lots of hugs and kisses

  2. Incredible! You have quite a beautiful family/pen pals. How wonderful that you can be so connected to them. It just made me smile with such a warm feeling in my heart to see all your pictures.

  3. You made me tear up a few times…wonderful pics…. we need to get together one of these days….love you, my cousin.

  4. Gina,
    I have only finished the Pen-Pal story, and I have to say that I’ve cried three times before I was done.
    My daughter came in twice, to ask what I was reading, was I still reading, then a “must be pretty good if you’re in tears!” outta her!
    I’m very impressed and so proud that you’re achieving your dreams!! Nothing feels better than that!! Congrats friend!!
    Love, Yvonne S. <3 <3

  5. I enjoyed your story very much, Gina. Penpalling is an amazing hobby and brings so many people happiness and long lasting friendship. You have shown your loyalty to pals by even reaching out & embracing their families. I love it. That’s what it’s all about 🙂

    A Fellow PenPaller in Alabama,
    Julie H.

  6. Awesome story! A month ago I came across a box with the postcard of my Penpal . I had 3 PE pals,one from Mombasa Kenya, another from Nairobi Kenya, and the third from Germany. I found 2 of the 3 postcards in the box. Also I found the letters written. On my part I did not keep in touch after 2 years in college. When I look back I wish I had. I shared this experience with my daughter. I admire you for doing that. With today’s technology I am going to try and find them. After reading your story you inspired me. Thanks for sharing it.

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