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Deliver My Pandemic Letter, the Sooner the Better

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

By Naomi Serviss

The bloom is off the Zoom.

True, virtual reunions are better than none.

My husband Lew and I cherish our weekly family gatherings.

We have dinners and watch movies together.

It’s fun observing daughter Emmy’s felines Pippin and Theo do cat things.

Our son Ben and his fiancée Katherine have a pound pooch, Luna, who is a rodeo clown.

We stretch our goodbyes like Laffy Taffy.

Sadness washes over me.

Our thirtysomethings aren’t as emotionally invested.

They’re millennials, weaned on indifferent computers.

Versed in all the devices.

I’m a Boomer with Luddite leanings.

Letter writing is more my speed.

Seeded in Mrs. Mason’s seventh grade Social Studies class, where Jane and I furtively passed notes.

Mrs. Mason was not amused.

Sometimes we’d get ratted out.

One afternoon, a smarty-pants kid intercepted and read one out loud.

He got his comeuppance.

Jane plunged a fountain pen nib into his hand.

Indelible ink tattooed his nice shirt.

Lesson learned.

Quarantine’s isolation ignited my cobwebby note-passing passion.

I ordered Alexander Calder cards during MoMA’s winter stationery sale.

Fineliner pens and multicolored sealing wax sticks and stamps were delivered.

I remembered three pen pals.

One was a Kyoto schoolboy.

His artfully addressed envelopes were rice paper thin.

Postage stamps were mini-artworks.

A Schenectady friend sent postcards.

The third pen-pal was a distant Rhode Island relative.

My father.

He had been ditched by my mother when I was four.

She had hauled four out of five children onto a Greyhound bus bound for Elkins Park, a Philadelphia suburb.

I wouldn’t see my father again for years.

My mother nixed his pleas for a reunion.

No reason given.

She held firm to that spiteful decision.

Then about-faced when I was ten.

The father I didn’t remember wrote me a letter.

He asked about school and my Elkins Park life.

I filled him in with 10-year-old wit.

Tree-climbing, creek-exploring and wandering untethered filled my days.

Railroad tracks ran behind the Montgomery Avenue Victorian house we lived in.

My six-year-older brother was cruel.

He tormented me daily while my mother worked.

My mother, brother and I had moved into a one-bedroom attic apartment on the third floor.

The Juliet balcony terrified me.

A clawfoot bathtub had a cheap rubber hose for a shower.

The tiny living room was furnished with two daybeds.

Stifling in the summer heat, the apartment in winter was barely heated.

I often spent days and nights with my best friend Susie.

Her family’s estate-like home was across the tracks.

Scout, her golden retriever, loved to cuddle.

He favored the carpeted piano room for its streaming sunlight.

Stormy was their snaggletoothed cat.

He lounged beneath the front bushes.

Mary was a full-time housekeeper.

Her husband Bill tended the sprawling grounds.

If not there, I’d be exploring the creek at the foot of Ogontz Junior High.

I’d wade to my ankles, scouting paramecium.

The cleansing cool water was restorative.

A perfect setting for my fantasies.

Flicka, my gentle mare, friendly phantoms and Gertrude, a toothy beaver, fueled my tall tales.

My father’s letter contained a dollar bill.

A Buck For Luck was inscribed next to it.

A new copper penny was taped to the bottom.

Our letter-writing continued long after my siblings disappeared.

My love for words shaped me.

I shared that love with my children.

Our Greenlawn kitchen had a designated drawer filled with cards, pens and colored markers.

Arching rainbows and eyelashed suns decorated Emmy’s creations.

Ben’s notes were droll.

Our family Zooms on Sunday.

We text, email and tweet daily.

Millennials are not into phone calls.

Emmy’s cards are dusted with silver stars and purple glitter.

Reflected in those stars is a little girl with high hopes.

She’s rereading a letter from Rhode Island.

Enclosed is a shiny copper penny.

And a Buck for Luck.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including

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