PENPALS: Getting to Know You
When Kim Kalicky's father died, she received a sympathy card from his sister. Though Kim had met her aunt only once, she wrote back and started what would become (at last count) a 27-year "writing relationship."
Kim holds bundles of letters she's received over the years.
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Think about writing to
someone in your life.
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How did you get started writing?
I met my Aunt Georgia once at the age of 15 at her parents' camp on Little Sebago Lake. She was my father's sister, one year younger than him. My father was divorced from my mom and estranged from most of his own family so I never had the chance to meet his side of the family, including Georgia.
My father and Georgia were close siblings—best buddies. They walked back and forth three miles to Deering High School singing songs and telling secrets.
When my father died, he was 70; Georgia was 69; and I was 25. Georgia sent me a sympathy card from her home in Florida.
And that started a 27-year writing relationship. At first just Christmas cards, then cards and stories from her travels, and news of what I was doing.
Do you write more to your aunt than she writes to you, or do you go back and forth answering one another's correspondence?
Mostly back and forth although she had a fall recently which has caused her to slow down a little (now at 96). She'll write me a line or two. But I know she still loves to get my "news" and has all the best wishes for me and my family. She's curious, and she's sincerely interested.
How often do you write?
Maybe once a month. With my writing, I have a lot of news and I share the details and progress with her.
You started writing with paper and pen, how did it come about that you switched from paper to email?
I wouldn't say we intentionally switched. We still send paper correspondence from time to time. In fact, I got a handwritten note from her a week ago with a clipping from a neighborhood newspaper in Naples, Florida. She wanted me to see it because she thought it was good writing.
I think we switched in order to write more, and more quickly. The fact that she emails (at 96) is so cool to me. She has an iPad and that's likely a quick way for her to get her thoughts down.
Do you prefer writing using stationery or using email?
I prefer email now.
It wasn't always that way, but it's so fast for me . . . and hopefully, it's still as personal. But I still send handwritten cards and thank you notes often (I wrote to the staff at Deering High School when my last son graduated to thank them for the wonderful job they'd done). Or a card chosen especially for someone (and not just for birthdays).
Do you exchange birthday cards and holiday cards as well?
Holiday cards. I don't even know when her birthday is, we've never discussed our birthdays.
Do you write to anyone else on a regular basis?
Oh yes - many! I have a girlfriend in California I write to regularly, and close friends and mentors who want to hear about my writing pursuits.
What is the most gratifying aspect of writing to your aunt?
The story of her life!
I have learned family history. I've learned about her, and my family.
I have discovered this entire, wonderful person and her "story," something that never would have happened if we each hadn't made the effort to write.
I surely would have missed something important to have missed Georgia.
She's brought me love and joy and things to think about.
She's influenced my life in a positive way . . . all from a long-distance, 27-year writing relationship.
After 20 years of writing, Aunt Georgia wrote saying, "Come. The sooner, the better." Within two weeks, Kim boarded a plane for Naples, Florida, and had what she calls the weekend of a lifetime.
"We fell into an easy rhythm that was instantly comfortable," Kim says. "She is so much like me — I may have gotten my writing ability from her. She is funny and wise and gorgeous, and so much fun to be around."
Kim and Georgia continue to write. And Kim, well she's much like the aunt she affectionately describes.
It would seem that Georgia, too, might have missed something important if they hadn't written, she would have missed Kim.
In addition to writing to her aunt, Kim has written two books, has been featured on The Huffington Post, and blogs regularly at KimKalicky.com.