Sunday, October 20, 2013

Air Mail: Letters I Wrote at Age 17

Dear Friend,

When I was seventeen my best friend and her family moved from the United States to a village in Hungary. I lived with my parents and three younger siblings on a farm in the Midwest. I was home-schooled for much of high school. We had no computer. I learned to cope with loneliness by reading and writing letters. I now have our complete correspondence in my possession. I'll share a few snippets from letters with you now. You can read another post about these letters here.
Dec. 6, 1993
Dear Jeni,
I really had you on my mind last night. I lied awake in the dark for two hours before falling to sleep. I hope you are doing well. I miss you terribly.
It is very gray here. My sister and I got up and took a walk this morning. It is safe to do so now that gun season is over. Three cute little puppies followed us for a long time. The wind was mean. It cut at my face and caused my ears to throb. The puppies were so brave as they walked with us. Their fur flew back and they had to squint their eyes.
We put up our Christmas tree last week. To save money, we used a fake one that my Aunt Debbie got out of the garbage last year. Along with our normal decorations we added strings of popcorn. It looks beautiful . . . 

Dec. 13, 1993 
The other day I went to the library and checked out a book about Hungary. It has a nice map in the back. In your next letter, could you please send the map that I have enclosed back to me. I would love to know where Sulysap is. Please circle it on the map . . . 
. . . I dream about going to Scotland someday. Want to come along? How fun it would be to climb a heather hillside and have another special picnic! -- Except this one would be spread out on a Tartan blanket. Imagine exploring a seaside town or a castle! Imagine listening to the bleating of sheep or the music of bagpipes. To experience Scotland with all the senses would be such an adventure!
 . . . Right now everyone is gone for various reasons. I have the entire evening to myself. I cannot think of a more enjoyable way to spend this time than by conversing with you . . .  
 . . . I know many people don't believe in making New Year's resolutions, but I always do. I have pulled out my resolutions from last year. It's funny to recall how most of them have been broken. Here's my favorite: "I will eat 52 sweets."  -- HA! HA! Yea, right! More like 552!
 . . . The saying on my desk easel for today is sort of dry (a bit like, "Friends, unlike fashions, should never change." How much thought went into that?) So I have decided to send you the saying for Dec. 11 instead:
"Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellow men and I will tell how much you have loved them."
~ Helmut Thielicke
That all I'll share for now -- though I've only shared portions of two letters, and I have stacks of them!

Have you saved any old letters from the days before email?

Peace & Joy,


  1. How did you get your letters back? I don't have any of the letters I wrote, just the ones I got.

    I spent my junior year of high school as an exchange student, and saved all the letters I got, which was a lot--between my family, my friends at home, and the other exchange students I rarely saw in person, but who corresponded enthusiastically. After that, I just saved all letters. They are tied up in bundles in my cedar chest. Email didn't become popular for another 5 years after that, and when I went to college, even friends still wrote paper letters a lot of the time. My mom didn't believe in paying for long distance when a letter would do, so she wrote me once a week.

    Amazing how now it's all gone. I never write letters, and I don't get them. We email or send messages on FB.

    1. All gone . . . yes, it IS amazing and kind of sad. I love the internet; it's given me what I could not have as a young adult. Given a choice, I would not go back, but I can see how those quiet years of waiting for letters to arrive helped formed me. There are aspects of that time that I miss.

      So wonderful that you have your letters in the cedar chest -- especially those from your mom. :-)

      My friend Jeni and I are still very close. (She now goes by Jennifer.) She lives in Budapest where she teaches English She's a brilliant teacher -- she even teaches a member of Hungarian Parliament. She comes to the states for a few weeks every summer. She put me in charge of storing our correspondence several years ago since she has moved around a lot.

  2. Those letters are a wonderful glimpse into your teenage self, Adriana. It's clear you have been a writer from early on. I'm glad I get to read your writing now that you're grown (although if you were in HS in 1993, you're still just a kid in my book!).


    P.S. To help you with your thoughts of heather covered hillsides in Scotland, I link Cyd and Gene:

    1. Tim, I'd be thrilled if I could write as well as you when I grow up!

      I had a great laugh over YouTube clip. If I ever go to Scotland with Joe, I'll be sure to pack my ballet slippers. ;-)

  3. I would have loved to get letters like that from a friend when I was 17 years old! They're just beautiful -- very Jane-Austen-esque!

    1. Thank you, Jeannie. They are some of my most treasured possessions!

  4. When my mother passed away I found two years worth of letters that my grandmother had written to her after she married my dad and moved 1,000 miles away. I don't have any that my mother wrote to her, however. Many of the letters are typed, they are all more than two pages long and I've read everyone of them. I've stored them in sheet protectors in three notebooks. I also have the letters that my father wrote to her while he was in Vietnam. I haven't been able to bring myself to read those yet.

    1. Oh my! How delightful to have all of those special letters! I can imagine just how precious they must be to you, Cynda. Very smart to store them in sheet protectors. I'm so glad you've shared this story here. :-)


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