Nine lives ago, I got an email from a nice guy named Mark. Mark read my blog. (This was around 2006.*) We didn’t know each other; he just stumbled upon PaperGirl and liked it, so he told me. I said, “Thanks!” and so began a many years-long friendship with Mark and, by extension, his awesome wife Netta. Mark and Netta live in Florida and have three adult kids.
Over nine years, I’d say I’ve gotten fifteen? twenty? emails from Mark and I’ve sent about as many. We’re not prolific pen pals. But we’re pals. Real pals. It’s just the way it is. Mark and Netta send me a cookie-fudge-nut tray every Christmas. Mark hired me to write a poem for his daughter years back and one for Netta this summer. I’m sending them a bundle of Small Wonders fabric as soon as I get home and stay home for five seconds. They sent a $100 gift card when I moved to D.C; I told Mark I bought a flower vase, a can opener, and dishtowels, all things I needed. I’ve sent a number of gushing thank-you cards to these people. The relationship I have with them is like a neat star that appears in the sky every few months. Never met ’em.
I met ’em last night.
Mark and Netta live in Florida, remember? Well, I announced I’d be in Maitland and who do you think sent me an email saying they weren’t too far from me and could we meet for dinner? My pen pal!
Saturday night, I met my friends at a cute Italian restaurant in Maitland. Mark got a bowl of fettuccine alfredo big enough to have a zip code; Netta and I realized we were both the middle daughter of three. I ordered the snapper special; Mark spoke about the qualities of a successful marriage. Our waiter was over-attendant; I cried about different stuff. I told them about my dad; they asked the right questions. I listened to their stories about love and family, how they’ve done it and how they might do it differently, or the same, if they had the chance to do it again. It wasn’t “like we were old friends.” We are old friends.
Mark, Netta, thank you. Again. For everything! Are you kidding me?? You send me fudge-nut trays and you let me blow my nose on a napkin within thirty minutes of meeting each other face-to-face! The counsel, the kindness… It’s good to know good people.
Here’s to the next nine years, you two. Merry Christmas.
*That’s right: the ol’ PG is almost nine years old, if you count a couple years in there when I had to go dark. There’s a bit about that here.