My Oldest Friend

I felt like writing, but not about the ball of stress that is my life. I remembered my bloggy resolution to finish those draft posts. I found this one, a prompt from a scrapbooking/genealogy web site I used to read.

Write about your oldest friend. Where did you meet? When did you become friends? Why do you think your friendship has lasted for so long?

I believe the prompt is really asking me about the person with whom I have been friends the longest. That person is Helena.

During the 4th grade, I was in Girl Scouts, and there was some Girl Scout penpal match thing that my mom found. I was matched with a penpal from Sweden, a girl named Helena who was a few months older than I was. Consequently, she was one grade ahead of me in school. We wrote every month, at a time when there was no email. Air Mail was very expensive. We used to write huge letters, full of pictures and postcards. I still have most of them. Before Jackson was born, I was working on a scrapbook of them.

She sent me two audio cassette tapes  – remember those? Side one of each was her talking. I remember the first one. She said, about her English, “I can read it… and I can… write it… but I can’t…. speak it….” Of course, she could read, write, and speak something like seven languages! I still remember her writing to me that, because she’s Swedish, she “got Danish for free.”

I loved the music she sent. I still have the tapes. I listened to the one tape she sent me in the summer of 1988 all day, every day, for the entire summer. I found a couple of the songs on iTunes and YouTube.

I always wanted to meet her, but I never had the money. Finally, I was getting married, and she said that one of her friends worked for an airline and could get her a ticket. She came to my wedding! My friend Alex showed her around. I felt like a total idiot, because I was getting my eyebrows plucked the night before my wedding. I should have been doing something fun and showing my Swedish friend more of New Hampshire than my little B&B room.

But it was awesome to meet her! I have this picture of us up on the wall:

Pen Pals! Helena & Robyn (photo by Ann)


I look kinda dorky, but Helena is beautiful.

I don’t remember the last time we wrote a real letter to one another. I still owe her second son a present! I recently found a letter that I started writing… more than 2 years ago! At least we are Facebook friends, so I get to see her two adorable sons.

Why do I think our friendship has lasted so long? Because we invested in it. Being in touch with Helena is important to me. I hope, once life settles down, I’ll be able to write her again. I also hope to one day have the funds and time to visit Europe, including her little corner of the world, Barcelona. (Yes, she’s Swedish, but she’s lived in Spain for at least a decade now.) Until then, we’ll always have… Enfield.


One thought on “My Oldest Friend

  1. Great story, Robyn. Penpals predate Facebook and were so much fun. A couple weeks ago I found a photo of my 4th grade French penpal, Dominique! But I don’t have any of her letters or remember her last name, and we stopped communicating because she was far more mature than I was. But as a kid we used to meet my mom’s penpal and her family halfway between our homes for picnics. I’ll have to ask my mother if she remembers . . . . So glad you have maintained your friendship with Helena.

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