After eight years of exchanging letters from their homes in rural Alaska and Vermont, two pen pals met each other face to face this month in Eek.
Eight years ago, Lucy Rodgers was 10 years old, living in Vermont. She was pretty interested in bears and wanted a pen pal. She looked for a region in bear country, and wrote a letter to the school in what sounded like a neat place: Eek. The school connected Lucy to 9 year old Florence Moore and they started writing letters.
“Some of our letters would be just information about what was like to live where we live and some of it would be just whatever, like my friend was mean to me,” said Lucy.
Sometimes they would answer letters quickly, other times a year would go by. They sent dozens of letters over the years, but no facebook, no emails, and no phone calls. Just old fashioned letters.
As young teenagers, they had told each other that they would one day visit each other. But life got busy and the letters got less frequent. Until recently they hadn’t talked in two years. In August, Florence did what she always did and sent a letter. And Lucy sped things up, immediately setting up a facebook account to get a hold of Florence and then quickly buy plane tickets.
“It was almost like a day before she came but it was actually three days. Really last minute,” said Florence.
Lucy flew from California to Bethel and was able to meet Florence at her dentist’s appointment.
“I just looked up from my book and she was standing in the doorway kind of looking around, I think she was afraid to say hi in case it wasn’t really me. And we sort of looked at each other for a second to see if we were looking for someone else,” said Lucy.
“And so we stepped out of the office. and hugged,” said Florence.
In Eek, Lucy has spent time with Florence’s family, eaten local foods and even did the wrist carry in NYO practice. But they also had time to talk about things that didn’t make it into the letters. Florence is now a mother.
“I thought that if I told her that she might think different of me and would stop talking to me. But she’s glad I told her because obviously having a child is a huge part of someone’s life and it is a really big part of my life. I’m glad that she’s really accepting,” said Florence.
It’s of course now Florence’s turn to visit. Once she graduates and saves some money, she’s planning on making the trip down to Vermont. But until then, they will stick with what works, and write each other letters.
“We’re not just going to all of sudden stop talking to each other, because it’s been eight years and we already know other so well. I think we’ve gotten a lot closer since we met. Like a lot closer,” said Florence.