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The Last Christmas Card
Recently, I sent what would be the last Christmas card to my English pen pal, Pamela. The first one was sent 71 years ago in 1949 when we were 12 years old. The current one did not reach her in time as she quietly passed away on Dec. 5.
Those first letters included her experiences as a Girl Guide and I wrote about playing basketball and life in a big family in a small town. We moved on sharing birthday messages each June, hers was the 5th and mine the 10th and each of us was born in 1937.
She recalled the fear she experienced as a small child during the blitz as her family ran to the bomb shelter in the back yard when the bombing began again. I recalled war experiences with war machines moving on the railroad, blackouts and rationing, all memories then of days gone by.
We shared our experiences at teacher’s college and then as teachers. Then it was marriage, her city life and my life as a farm wife. Many letters included the arrival of our children, three each doing interesting things as they grew up, then came the grandchildren.
She explained the celebration with fireworks and bonfires on Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day, and I explained the American celebration on July 4, our Independence Day.
We laughed when we discovered her “jumper” was he same as my “sweater”, that her telly was the same as my TV, and that petrol was the same as gasoline.
Pam loved to travel and sent picture post cards from many lovely places in the British Isles and also from abroad including one from Hong Kong where she stopped over on her trip to visit her sister who lived in New Zealand. Those hundreds of postcard fill boxes and are a pleasure to see again and again. In those last years in a wheel chair she still went on day trips to the seacoast where she watched the crowds, the waves and breathed in the fresh salty air.
We each wrote of our experiences as we sent birthday cards for 71 years, and now, sadly no more will arrive.
She came for a fortnight visit in 1995, and enjoyed the farm, bird watching, feeding the bottle calf, the exciting greetings by the farm dogs and cats with each arrival at home. Friends extended invitations for lunch, for tea, for a visit to local museums. She soon found she just did not like iced tea…best warm with milk. Her visit was in June so desserts were often angelfood cake and strawberries which she liked very much.
We visited Hannibal and toured the museum and cave. I gave her a copy of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and I am sure she was puzzled by some of the regional superstitions and vocabulary depicted by Mark Twain.
I wrote of our Thanksgiving meal menus and she attempted making a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin and laughed when she discovered my recipe was from canned Libby’s pumpkin. I sent seed from our Indian corn but she had no luck with growing it as she expected it to form heads like wheat. Once again explanations were needed…..corn is maize, wheat is corn.
Each year she made her special fruit cake which ripened on the shelf until the Christmas feast. Sometimes plum pudding was made. We exchanged little gifts that remain among my treasures today. The books revealed our differing tastes, also cookbooks which used oz. instead of cups, etc. tatted pieces and embroidery, scenic towels, while I sent homemade ornaments for her Christmas tree among other things. Some were made from corn husks and some stuffed hearts and balls.
We paid a short visit to her in her home near Cambridge in 2002. We squeezed our big selves into her tiny car and away we went for some sightseeing and a meal at a pub.
Letters and cards continued and revealed some of the infirmities we suffered with advancing years. She suffered little strokes and at last the last letter was written. Her last one concluded as usual “With kindest regards from Pamela”.
She loved traveling to new places so I know she will be happy exploring heaven. I only wish she could send me another postcard from there. Fare-thee-well, Pam. She often used the word “lovely” and it has indeed been a lovely 71 years.
Contributed by Marilyn Goodwin