It started seven years ago with a case of mistaken identity.
I’d sent a holiday card to some school friends who’d relocated to New York using an address I’d found on the Internet. As in past years, the card included a newsy letter about the happenings of our family with updated photos of the boys.
The following year I sent another. Then I received his letter.
“Please don’t take me off your list…” a man who shared our school friend’s name wrote. Intrigued, I read on.
He’d worked for decades for the New York Mass Transit Authority as a train engineer before his recent retirement. “I always loved trains,” he confessed. He’d even included a hand-drawn map of the intricate workings of the railroad that snakes its way around and under New York and the boroughs.
“He drove a train!” I remember the reaction when I told the boys. I could have told them the man knew how to fly and they would have been less impressed. We were well into our Thomas the Tank Engine phase.
The man explained that he’d been receiving (and enjoying) our holiday card and letter for the past several years. He’d wanted to write earlier and tell us of the address mix-up but was worried if he did we would remove him from our annual list.
That was the day Paul Fritz and I officially met.
“I got myself a pen pal!” I told my husband in explaining the letter.
“Of course you did,” my husband responded.
Every holiday I send off Paul Fritz’ card and wait excitedly for his response. Last year he shared that he also likes to write and is thinking of writing a book about working on the subway.
“What do you think he looks like?” I’ve asked my husband. I don’t know, but have speculated plenty. I picture him as an older German man in his late 60s with graying temples and a barrel chest.
“A skinny white guy from Dayton,” my husband responded.
I always think to write Paul Fritz during the year (for some reason I can only refer to him using both his first and last names). I never find the time. Today I did.
Pen to paper, I wrote a letter to my pal. A newsy note shared the antics of the boys and the fight (and the consequent success) to save our tree house. I hope he writes back soon.