Preferring Penpals to the “Real World”

Mother loved writing letters to strangers. In fact, she enjoyed communicating more with people she never met (and never would) much more than she enjoyed interacting with people in her “real world” (such as her family and neighbors).

She had many “penpals” that she gathered over the years. By the time she settled in out west, she had almost one hundred people she wrote to from all over the world. Most of them seemed to be lonely and must have been bored out of their gourds to carry on a relationship with Mother through the mail. She knew how to write a good letter and included lots of fabrications and outright lies about her life and family.

The New Fantasyland

From time to time Mother would read from her letters to her penpals to my sister Abby and I. The letters were full of fabricated stories about how Mother put us both through college, sacrificed everything she had for her husband and her children, and then started a new life in Los Angeles. She made this new life out to be very glamorous. Kind of like a movie script.

In return for these letters of fiction, she received lots of letters back and kept the postal service busy. We never could figure out why she enjoyed writing to people she had never met. But I always told my sister that our mother lived in a glass menagerie and had difficulty with reality. Instead of glass figurines, she collected letters. Sort of like taking up permanent residence in Fantasyland.


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