FRIDLEY, Minn. — When is the last time you got a handwritten letter in the mail? Like an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter, not just a birthday card someone signed their name to?
This is a story about a dying form of communication, of human connection, and how the simple act of putting pen to paper can create a bond between people. Even people who don't know each other.
It starts four years ago on day one of our new show, “Breaking the News.” We asked people to share their thoughts with us via social media, letter, or carrier pigeon. We didn’t care how you reached out, we just wanted you to reach out.
Wouldn't you know it, a handwritten letter showed up. At first, I didn't think much of it, but then came another, and another, all from the same person.
Pretty soon, I started to look forward to them. There was something special about the fact that someone took the time to write down their personal thoughts, put a stamp on it, and send it to me. Each letter always signed the same way. “Cathy from Fridley.”
Well, after four years, I decided it was time to meet my pen pal. Here’s how part of that meeting went.
CATHY: “I just enjoyed sharing with you things that were on my mind, and I hoped maybe you enjoyed hearing it, and if not so be it, and if so, all the better.”
ME: “So you kept sending them.”
CATHY: “I did!” (She laughs.) “After a week or so, and it didn't come back return to sender, I thought maybe she got it, maybe she read it, so a few weeks later I thought let's try this again."’
ME: "Well, does it surprise you to know that not only have I read your letters, but I have actually kept them?”
CATHY: “That blows me away. Absolutely blows me away. What was your first reaction? What's with her?"
ME: “The first letter I probably just thought, well that was nice. And then another one came, and another one came, and then I started to look forward to them.”
CATHY: “Did you really?”
ME: “Yes, and then when I wouldn't get one for a couple of weeks, I'd be like 'I hope Cathy from Fridley is OK!' At some point you knew I was getting your letters because I've mentioned it on the air.”
CATHY: “Well you mentioned it once with Kat Perkins. Janine, who works from home, about threw her laptop in the air and said, 'Did she just say Cathy from Fridley?' And my phone started pinging and my sister is going, 'What the heck, are you friends with Rena?' That’s the one time at least I knew you read that one."
ME: "I know that your wife and I have the same birthday.”
CATHY: “Yes, and Brett Favre.”
ME: “And Brett Favre. That brings me to, I know you are a Packers fan.”
CATHY: “I am, born and raised in Wisconsin, you have no choice."
ME: “I know that you love your pizza cut into squares.”
CATHY: “I do. As you do and ketchup on my hot dogs."
ME: "I feel like we have a lot in common.”
CATHY: “I think that's why I wrote to you. You know over the years there were so many things that you said that resonated with me."
ME: "You swore once in one of your letters to me!”
CATHY: “I did!”
ME: “You also corrected my grammar once.”
CATHY: “I did. Ha ha, I did. You have not done it since. I took credit for that."
ME: "You always sign every letter Cathy from Fridley."
CATHY: "I'm your CFF.
ME: “You are my CFF."
ME: “I'm going to read something to you. How does that sound?"
“As a card-carrying baby boomer, it doesn't make me angry to be dismissed with an 'ok boomer' it makes me sad.
“I like to think I've led a somewhat interesting life, filled with loves, losses, adventures, careers, mischief and insights. Almost 70 years’ worth."
“Oh sure they're kind, but they don't care about the stories of my life, so the stories remain untold and that makes me sad, but I guess that's okay.”
“I just want you to know that your stories of your life matter to me."
CATHY: "I'm glad you appreciate it.
ME: “Will you keep writing?
CATHY: “If you want me to?
ME: “Are we official friends now?"
CATHY: “I'll be your CFF always.”
ME: “You'll always be my CFF."