Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: MAIL (02/18/16)
TITLE: Pen, Paper, and Dreams
By Leola Ogle
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In 1964, we married – my friend, Sherry, and me. Children who felt grown up. Sherry, at fifteen, married the eighteen-year-old pastor’s son, Daniel. I, at barely sixteen, married the eighteen-year-old boy I’d been dating. It felt like embarking on a grand adventure. We were good church kids during a time when almost everything was a sin. Getting married was not. Straight-A-students, we ditched academics for homemaking.
In 1965, Sherry and I had our first babies. We were both sixteen.
We hung out together as couples, and with other teens from church. Bowling, picnics, lake trips, back yard barbecues, drive-in movies – some things considered worldly, if not sinful. But we were married.
We were still teenagers when we had our third babies. We had produced miniature humans – we were artists – sculptors.
Then the unthinkable happened. Sherry and Daniel moved to Oklahoma.
I felt lost – a different species than my other friends. Being a teenage mother of three was okay if you weren’t the only one.
Then the letter writing started. Six to ten pages of handwritten weekly news flowed between Arizona and Oklahoma. The postman became my hero whenever he deposited those thick envelopes in my mailbox. The mailbox – a silver dome with a front-hinged door and a side red flag to be raised signaling outgoing mail – atop a wooden four-by-four at the edge of our front yard. Like an undecorated Christmas tree delivering weekly gifts – pages of news from Sherry.
The mundane became embellished stories of adventure written in letters. Who else would understand the woes of sleepless nights with sick babies? The dog chewing up soiled diapers – the cloth kind. Formula stains that wouldn’t come out. The many ways to fix ground beef and macaroni. The perils of grocery shopping with three little ones. Share the love of consuming books of all genres.
Daily minutiae became a comedy or melodrama in the retelling. Our stories could fill books, and we vowed that one day we would write books. We compared teething, toilet training, crawling, first steps – all with a touch of competitiveness. We shared pictures of our offspring, never voicing we thought ours were the cutest.
By the time Sherry and I had five children each – she, four boys and a girl; I, four girls and a boy – I realized my marriage was in trouble. Those letters kept my sanity. Not only the letters from her, but the writing of my own letters.
Our children started school. Church activities, school sports, and activity clubs kept us busy and provided fodder for our letters.
Eventually the letters stopped. I no longer watched the approaching postman with anticipation. The mailbox lost its attraction. It crept up so subtly, I couldn’t pinpoint when it actually happened. Sherry’s life took a drastic turn from mine. She left Daniel to be with someone else. She dropped out of church. Before the letters stopped completely, she voiced disillusionment with God, church, and Christians.
I floundered in my response. I’m sure I was harsh. I had struggled to keep my marriage together in difficult circumstances, while she had a loving and kind husband. It was God and my church family who helped me survive. I took offense to her criticism. We didn’t argue. We simply ceased.
Years drifted by like a feather in the wind. Mail never held the splendor it once had. Whenever I thought about it, I admitted I missed our weekly letters. Numerous times I caught myself thinking, “I’ll tell Sherry about this in my next letter.”
But there were no more letters.
My husband left me. It was a relief. Sherry would understand – the Sherry I knew before. Not the Sherry who was on husband number three. Or was it five? Six? Friends kept me informed.
I became a grandmother – several times. And then another friend from our teen years asked if I wanted Sherry’s address. And the letters resumed. Different letters than those early years. Different news to share. But there was a bond between us still.
Our letters went via the internet through emails. The starry-eyed teenage mothers who poured our hearts out with pen and paper could never have imagined such a thing.
Ten years of email letters, and a few personal visits later, our lives are still very different, but somehow the same.
We are writers. We are voracious readers. We are!
**True story. Names changed.
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