31 Jan
Modern Day Pen Pals

Somewhere in South Africa, a woman named Alison is wearing a scarf I sent her and baking my husband's favourite cookies for her husband. I have never met her, but we are modern-day pen pals. I have gathered a few email friends simply by responding to comments left on my blogs. 

I write a recipe blog titled From the Cookie Jar, which is published on Get a Bigger Wagon. I also write Glamour for Grandmothers. Sometimes I wake up promising myself that I will send a gift to the next person who comments on one blog or another. One morning, after such a promise, Alison sent me a message about a cookie recipe I had published on From the Cookie Jar. She remembered the recipe from the 50s and was overjoyed to find it again. She told me her husband loves the Crispy Caramel Oatmeal Cookies and she makes the recipe often. 

I wrote back thanking her for her comment on my blog and telling her that she had been selected to receive a silk scarf. The limited-edition, pure silk scarf is the result of a collaboration between John Alexander, a Canadian landscape photographer, and Indian textile artist Manori. I was sure she would love it. 

We began a series of emails back and forth. Although Alison was originally from England, she now lives in South Africa. At the time that we began communicating, South Africa had shut down its postal service because of COVID. Each time I tried to mail the scarf to Alison, our post office told me South Africa wasn't accepting mail. This went on for months. Each time I failed to send the scarf, I emailed Alison to assure her that I would try again soon. In the meantime, we shared photos of cookies, the scarf, and our surroundings. 

Eventually, the parcel left Saskatoon. I was ecstatic. Alison warned me that it could still take months for her to receive it. She had sent a package to her daughter's family in Australia that had taken six months to get there. We began checking in with each other every few weeks.

We are of similar age, have been married to our respective husbands for decades, and have handled COVID in a similar manner. Over the weeks, we compared notes on weather, food, friendship, and how much our husbands love the special cookies. When Saskatchewan was under snow, Alison was enjoying her outdoor pool. She told me that seniors, during COVID, had to exercise between 6:00 and 9:00 am, but the sun didn't rise until 7:30 am at that time of year. She and her husband went for walks before sunup at the golf course across the street.

Then one day the scarf arrived and Alison sent me this photo. The colours are perfect on her. I noticed the lush scenery in the background. It was snowing in Saskatchewan at the time. 


The internet has certainly changed our lives. Without it, I wouldn't be sharing recipes across the world, meeting subscribers like Alison, or keeping up with friends and family so easily. I remember a time when communicating with people in other countries required handwriting notes, mailing them, and waiting many weeks for a reply. 

At Christmas of 2021, while we were experiencing extreme cold, Alison and her husband were experiencing extreme heat. She replied to the electronic card I sent her with this little comment. 

Every time I notice a sticker saying South Africa on a lemon, I smile and think of Alison. I am sure our husbands would get along very well. After all, they have exceptional taste in cookies and wives.  


Alison made these cookies and sent me a photo. If she lived closer, I might have popped in for coffee. 




Comments (6)

  • Anita Skot
    February 2, 2022 at 07:11 pm

    I love this story. As a young girl I had a few penpals. One of my favourite was an uncle of my dad’s who was a priest in Minnesota. Uncle Don, as he was known, was a great letter writer. Now you’ve got me wondering what happened to all those letters. Thanks Maureen. :)

  • Gayle Senger
    February 2, 2022 at 05:25 pm

    Maureen. It would be hard not to make friends with you. You spend unlimited time writing and communicating with people. You are a special friend. Keep having fun!!!

  • Helen Davis
    February 2, 2022 at 04:17 pm

    Love people becoming pen pals. Of course, these days….there’s usually no pen involved at all. Messages sent and received on phone or iPad…guess that’s still considered being pen pals. Part of the fun part of having one when I was younger was getting the card or letter in the mail, seeing the stamp, and replying with a special card and stamp. Mailing the scarf …and receiving it so far away (though this world does seem to be smaller now)…that’s fun to do. Those cookies look delicious..and I agree…good taste in wives and cookies. Ha!

  • The Boy
    February 2, 2022 at 03:23 pm

    Have I mentioned how much I "LOVE" those cookies......remember......4 is a serving. Yummy!

  • Brenda Nowakowski
    February 2, 2022 at 03:09 pm

    Loved this Maureen! I am one of those people who love to drop notes in the mail and really love to receive them. Keep making connections :)

  • Patricia Coulter
    February 2, 2022 at 03:06 pm

    This is just what my soul needed! Well written and so heartwarming on another brutally cold day on the prairies!

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