I haven’t thought about the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65 until one of my daughters brought it back from my long-forgotten memories. And how had I arrived there, back in time? We were talking about life, how we find ourselves getting through it these days.
It was when we spoke about how worldly we are in this day and age, and how unworldly I thought my generation was when the fair opened. I was, however, on the path to worldliness, even though I was just a teenager and the only thing I knew were the tears I had shed for the assassination of a great president and the cold war.
The Unisphere shone brightly the first day my mother and I walked through the gates. What a maze of wonder, what an eclectic mixture of cultures from all over the planet, from the Chinese Pagoda to the first American visit of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” right there in Flushing Meadows. My mother would take me as many days as there were days in a month (just about) “to the fair.” It was there I was to embark upon the journey that would make me who I am today and would begin to teach me about the people of the world.
What was a unique idea by Parker Pen ™ started me off on the quest of a lifetime. I would later go on to leave my NYC and move to Naples, Italy, to tour much of Europe, visit Japan, live in Hawaii, live in Rhode Island and finally (for the moment) end up in Virginia. And, of course, not throwing in how many American states I would visit in this lifetime to date.
Now, getting back to the Parker Pen ™ Pavilion – I couldn’t believe what they were offering: a chance to have a penpal in any part of the world, someone who would write me and tell me all about his or her life, his or her customs and culture. A complete stranger from another land would become my friend, all orchestrated by the act of signing up for a penpal after visiting this wonderful pavilion.
My first penpal was from Turkey. It was a young girl like myself and we corresponded for years. Then there was a great earthquake in Turkey and I never heard from her again, even after the many letters I sent her. I feared the worst but hoped for the best.
Later, I would go on to have many penpals, a full four pages of names and addresses, from Germany to Iran, from Asia to Africa, to anywhere someone would write me back. I don’t remember how I obtained all of them, but they did all turn out to be friends, and for many years.
My friend in Ghana sent me all sorts of presents made of leather, a colorful scarf of Ghana’s well-known colors, a wooden comb hand carved in the silhouette of an African woman. My friend in Iran, Mahmood, sent me a Persian mosaic picture which, along with all my other souvenirs, I still have.
And now it seems that all of these penpals prepared the way for me, and those who would become my family, to travel to wonderful places, to teach us to speak two or more languages fluently, and to learn that there truly are no boundaries in learning to know someone outside what we might call our comfort zone, except those boundaries we set up ourselves and which boundaries keep us confined in a world that is steadily shrinking its borders day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
I will always be indebted to Parker Pen ™ for taking my hand and using it to write myself into a world that is still full of wonder and excitement for those who would let it in.
I am also indebted to my mother who showed me the best two years of our lives.