So where did I leave off? Oh, yes! I was talking about the ‘Big Blue Marble’ TV show that used to air on PBS in the 70s and 80s and how I wrote the show (when I was in middle school) and requested a pen pal. After I graduated high school, my mom took me to Europe at which time I actually got to meet my pen pal ‘in the flesh’. What I failed to mention before I started down that dusty trail was that I didn’t just have one pen pal from the show, I actually had three! I had the one (I’ve already mentioned) in Denmark, but I also had one in Germany and another in Malaysia. And before I hopped on that train to meet my Danish pen pal, I had actually made a separate trip (the week prior) to meet my German pen pal. The two experiences were like night and day, as polar opposite as you can get. When I met up with my pen pal in Denmark, aside from the fact that I was a sh*tty guest, I had a fabulous time. That was not the case when I met up with Marcus.
It is fascinating to me how you can develop an impression of someone from a photo and a couple of letters, and when you actually get a chance to meet them, they are nothing like you imagined (and not in a good way). Marcus and I were the same age and he wasn’t half-bad looking. Honestly, knowing how I was at the time (a giant, raging hormone), I probably considered him a possible love interest. When I was 18 years old, any male that was anywhere from 2 years younger to 2 years older than me was a possible love interest. If you’re wondering what happened that resulted in me portraying this scenario in such a bleak way, I will tell you. I think the first thing I should mention was that Marcus appeared to be lacking something significant, namely, a sense of humor. He definitely was not a warm, inviting person. In fact, he almost seemed dour. The entire time we spent together felt long and awkward. I didn’t think it could get any worse until it did.
Why did it get worse? Well, after he picked me up from the train station, he brought me back to his parents’ house. The home was in a nice neighborhood and the house itself was neat and tidy and well furnished. I don’t remember either of his parents being home at the time but what I do distinctly remember is a ‘lovely’ framed photo of his grandfather in an SS uniform. It was proudly on display, for all the world to see, or at least the people that happened to enter the home and walk into the livingroom. And when I glanced over at it, and saw the undeniable insignia of a Nazi, I was mortified. Not only was I mortified, I was disgusted, horrified, shocked, and taken aback. Since I suffer from ‘open mouth, insert foot’ disease, before I knew it, I was remarking on the photo (and not in an endearing way). Marcus didn’t appreciate my input. He was quite proud of his highly decorated SS Nazi officer grandfather.
Long story short, I didn’t stick around. I have a hard time hearing someone try to justify their dear ol’ grandpa’s role in the Holocaust, especially when he was one of the perpetrators and complicit in committing unspeakable acts. It made me sick to my stomach! Not surprisingly, there was no further communication between us. A possible ‘love interest’ he was not!! Yuck! I don’t want to spend another minute talking about ‘him’. Alright, so now that we have that unpleasant business out of the way, let’s return to where I left off in Part One. I had just been sternly reprimanded for not having my passport and forced off the train. I was at some station in Denmark, but I couldn’t begin to tell you where. My next move? I spotted a pay phone and immediately called my Danish pen pal. Fortunately, she was home and took the call. After I explained my dilemma, I asked if she could take a look around to determine if I had left it at her house.
She set the receiver down in order to check for the passport, and mere seconds later, I heard her pick it back up. “I’ve got it!” she announced triumphantly, “You left it on the kitchen counter.” “Oh, my gosh. I feel like such an idiot!” I responded. I then told her that I would return to her home right away, retrieve the passport, and then go back to the station in order to board the next train headed to Frankfurt. I must tell you, I was sweating bullets. Our flight back to the States was scheduled for that very evening and everything was riding on me returning on time. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I was able to catch the next train headed north. When the train stopped at her town, I exited, and was beyond delighted to find her waiting nearby with my passport in hand. I was so incredibly grateful and thanked her countless times. While I anxiously awaited the next train, she stuck around and we made the best of the situation.
I should probably remind you that I had no way to communicate with my family. There were no cell phones or laptops or tablets back in 1985. We were ‘old school’. The fact that my family had no idea what had transpired on my end was of great concern. Once the train finally arrived and I was able to resume my journey, several hours had passed. Around the time the train departed Denmark, I was supposed to be arriving in Frankfurt. I was in a panic because I didn’t have a way to reach my mom or brothers and tell them what had happened and they, in turn, were starting to freak out because when the train that I was supposed to be on arrived at the station, I was not among the passengers that exited. Fast forward to five hours later. As I exited the train after finally reaching my destination, my family was in near-crisis mode. Are you surprised?
They had almost lost hope and were just getting ready to leave the station. They had been searching for me frantically and the return flight to the States was departing in under two hours. I explained what happened as we hurried off to the airport. My mom was so relieved when I did eventually appear, that she didn’t even get mad at me. We made it on time to the airport and had a nice, uneventful flight back home. Yay! Whew!! What happened between me and my Danish pen pal after that? Let’s just say that I felt like a heel after behaving the way I did when I went to visit her. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I never made an attempt to reach out again and neither did she. Woah, hang on. I’m not done yet. I should say, I never made an attempt to reach out again and neither did she UNTIL (drum roll) Facebook intervened. Yep, social media. I used to be a member (up until about 2 years ago) and just before I terminated my membership for good, I did a search and found her!
I was so excited to be able to reconnect, I had so much to tell her! However, first and foremost, I wanted to apologize. And I told anyone and everyone (who would listen) how happy I was to have finally ‘found’ her again after over three decades. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. The first time I sent her a private message, she didn’t know who I was. Huh? “Did I send it to the wrong person?” I thought to myself. No, I had the right person, there was no denying it was her. A second direct message with multiple references seemed to jog her memory. But her response, to my disappointment, was a bit ‘lukewarm’. Still, I felt it necessary to tell her how sorry I was and explain my circumstances at the time. After spilling my guts and sharing all kinds of personal information about my life, she curtly responded that she really wasn’t interested in anything other than having me as a Facebook ‘friend’ and nothing more. Looking back, maybe it was a little TMI.
Sorry, my friends. You probably thought this fairy tale was going to have a happy ending. My stories tend to align more with Grimm’s Fairy Tales rather than Disney’s. I had hoped I could share something uplifting but that’s not always reality. Sometimes stories have sh*tty or disappointing endings. Maybe if I had continued corresponding with the pen pal from Malaysia I could have had something better to end with. But I didn’t. Once I returned home from Europe, I enlisted in the military and life became a bit of a ‘blur’ after that. Many of the things I had done, including corresponding with pen pals, ended abruptly once I left for bootcamp. Hey, what can I say? Sometimes you have people briefly in your life and wish things could have gone differently. And once you have a chance to reconnect, with the hope that things can be what they once ‘were’, the outcome is often not what you might expect. Thanks so much for stopping by! If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.