I connected to Amanda through a global PenPal project started by the New Yorker writer Rachel Syme. In September 2020, Rachel announced that over 4,500 people in 50 countries had joined #penpalooza. Amanda lives in Florida, while I live in Lower Mainland, British Columbia, Canada.
With the pandemic raging across the world and provincial borders in Canada closed to visitors, our province finally allowed leisure travel within its borders in September. My husband and I decided to take advantage of relaxed COVID rules to visit an island we heard a lot about from a friend who was lucky to stay there many times. We booked our trip, not knowing what would happen with our reservations or any of our plans. We desperately wanted to escape our apartment, having been confined to it for months.
An exquisite calligraphed envelope was in our mailbox when we came back. Inside was a custom letterpress card made by Amanda, an artist who owns a small-press business. At first, I was confused, as I forgot I had signed up for the project. Amanda told me about herself and asked me about British Columbia. I decided to respond with a comic.
I never heard from Amanda again. My guess is the comic never reached her. A few of my other letters and parcels, including a small painting, met the same fate, becoming inconsequential victims of the same pandemic, with only one person to mourn them: myself.
P.S. After a few months, Amanda responded with another beautiful letter and a gift, and the email exchange is ongoing. Like many of us, she was caught in the pandemic and away from home.
The small painting also found its way back after a year. It’s now with a friend.