Ancient History

Follow Me?


Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Colleen McGaugh

Dear Colleen,

I’m sorry I haven’t written in 22 years. To say I’ve been busy the entire time wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

I think of you, my childhood pen pal, often. We were matched by my Girl Scout troop when I was nine years old. You were ten, but glad to have me as a pen pal despite having 10% more years of living under your Girl Guide sash. You were across the Atlantic Ocean on the island of Ireland. The stamps you attached to the airmail envelopes said “Eire” on them and I was quite impressed. They always seemed to feature gryphons and gargoyles, wild creatures from wild Eire. I thought you were just as exotic.

I remember asking in one letter if you believed in leprechauns and banshees. My ideas of the Irish were formed by too many viewings of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” You wrote back and said no, you didn’t. I was slightly disappointed, so I moved on to the next monster of the British Isles—Nessie, of Loch Ness.

No, you didn’t believe in her either, and you gently pointed out that she lives in Scotland. Wisely, I didn’t ask you about Abominable Snowmen. If I had a pen pal in the Alps, she would have been asked about the mythical creatures in her backyard.  

One of your letters informed me your father drove a Ford Grenada. I had never heard of a Ford Grenada, and I had seen plenty of car commercials. You wore a uniform to school. You sent a picture of yourself, taken in your confirmation dress. You looked like a bride. You liked a boy named John. Once, you sent Irish coins. It’s a miracle the flimsy airmail envelope managed to get them from ancient County Galway to nouveau-ancient western Colorado. You were a girl like me, with dark brown curly hair and light eyes. When you sent your picture, I thought you could have been my sister.

We wrote for about three years, then stopped. I think it was because we were young teenagers and the world outside our bedroom doors was distracting—we didn’t notice the slowing of the stamps. I kept your letters for many years in my top dresser drawer. I am sad to say I do not know what happened to them. Despite not having the letters, I still remember your childhood address and still remember what you wrote.

Thank you.

Your American pen pal,


P.S. No, I’ve never seen Bigfoot.

14 comments to Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Colleen McGaugh

  • How do you know until you ask? I’ve never had a pen pal. I think that’s neat.

  • goslyn

    I’m impressed. I had a French pen pal once, and she was very good about sending me letter. I, however, was not so faithful about writing her.

    But it was cool while it lasted.

  • How cool! I wonder where Colleen is now and what she’s doing. Do they drink green beer in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day?

  • I bet you could track her down if you really put your mind to it!

  • mopsy

    Shannon—I’ve tried to find her, via searches on the web and through her childhood towns’ directory. One thought I had is mailing a letter to her address, in hopes her parents still live there.

  • Mel

    I had a lot of penpals in my youth . . .now, just one, a prisoner I knew back before all THAT.

  • Jenn

    Wow! How ironic, the boys both just got penpals (or we called them writing buddies) today! They’re from Myanmar (Burma).

    Lovely memories!

  • goslyn

    They do not drink green beer on St. Paddy’s day in Ireland. ‘Twould be an insult to beer. (I was there for St.Paddy’s last year, no green beer.)

    The idea about sending a letter to her parents is a good one … people tend to stay in one place longer there than here.

    Good luck!

  • oh i’m such a dork, but i hope you have a google-enabled reunion due to this post!

  • So sweet. What a pity we lose our penpals along the way. Our kids will never really experience that kind of penpals. Computer pals will probably be more accurate

  • That is cool. My family (mother’s side) is quite proud of their Irish heritage.

    I had a pen-pal in jr. high. She was Czech. I lost contact with her during the civil war there which was really sad. I’ve often wondered what happened to her….

  • Colleen,
    I know you haven’t talked to Gretchen in 22 years. But, you know, I’m feeling like it’s been that long since we’ve heard from her. If you see her, can you ask her to post just a teeny tiny update? :0)


  • I miss you, Mopsy!!! Hope all is well.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>