I love the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. Love makes you real. It also makes others real. Last Monday, I got to love someone in person whom I'd known on paper for years and years. Now we're both real.
My friend Janet, proprietress and publisher of Just Write , came to New York for a long weekend. (Bless Jon, her husband, for wanting to see a concert close by!) On Monday, they came to the library, and we had a window of three hours before they had to get off Long Island to avoid being swallowed by the Long Island Expressway (i.e., longest parking lot on earth). We went to a lovely town and ate lovely food at a lovely cafe. We walked around the town a little. Jon checked out a sports memorabilia store while Janet and I handled and coveted various Vera Bradley creations in a boutique. I examined Janet's knitting and pronounced her seed stitch "excellent," and she gave me two balls of misty yarn that's so soft that I want to knit a bed out of it.
Those are the facts. They don't begin to tell the story. We have been writing for many, many years. We write long letters, often, and we are as honest and verbose (or not) as if we were talking to a close, in-person friend.
I've met penfriends before. All of my experiences (Moon Rani, Becky, others) have been wonderful. So why were Janet and I a little apprehensive about this meeting? I'll speak for myself: because I was afraid that this would be the one time when things didn't go right. I'm not a social creature - I have to be pried out of my house. We've both been anxious and we've both been dealing with health/energy issues lately. Should we risk meeting?
Reader, we risked it. And it was good. We were so comfortable, instantly, that it was almost frightening. If I believed in kindred souls, Janet would be one. We talked as if we were writing -- because we both write the way that we talk.
I know that some people doubt that a close bond can be wrought on paper. They are just wrong. If you put your heart and your truth into letters, you are in the letter. And if your penfriend does the same, you have as deep a friendship as you want it to be.
(I have to admit: I was more than just a little apprehensive about meeting Jon, and having him accompany us. If I'm shy about meeting women, I'm doubly shy about meeting men. I thought Jon would be uncomfortable, too, hanging around with two women. WRONG. Janet has written a lot about Jon over the years, and it was all true -- he's easy to know and easy to talk to. Let this be a lesson for me: don't assume anything based on gender.)
Incidentally, I bought something in the boutique: a little white rabbit puppet, not velveteen, but soft enough. She'll be a touchstone of things that are real.