A mysterious envelope arrived in our mailbox recently, addressed to “Michael” (no last name) in purple letters from someone apparently comfortable with using a crayon as a primary writing tool.
My 10-year-old son, Michael, was delighted to discover it was stuffed with all sorts of treasures: Picture postcards from Alaska, a snapshot of a backyard and a drawing of two boys named Mason and Michael holding hands and standing beside an airplane.
The envelope also contained a lengthy letter from Alisha, Mason’s mother, who wanted to offer a belated thanks to Michael for befriending her son nearly a year ago.
That’s when the brief story of Michael and Mason started to emerge from the fog of a faded memory.
Michael is always eager to make a new friend, and he is great with younger kids. So it was no surprise when Michael found a little boy to play with him while we waited at the airport in Seattle to board a flight to Washington, D.C., last spring.
Mason was only half Michael’s age, but that didn’t matter. Michael was happy to have someone to entertain. The boys took turns playing the video game Hill Climb Racing on my iPhone while the adults sat stoically through a lengthy flight delay.
Before Mason and his mom finally boarded their plane, Michael handed them a sheet of paper. It was a letter with a return address that Michael had written asking Mason to send pictures of his house and backyard.
In her letter, Alisha explained why it took nearly a year to write back.
After that trip last spring, life for Mason’s family got pretty busy, and Michael’s letter got tucked away and forgotten. Alisha had another baby boy. A few weeks after that, Mason and his family moved all the way from Maryland to Alaska, a 27-day adventure with a month-and-a-half old baby, two dogs, two fiddler crabs and a goldfish named Goldie.
When she was unpacking, Alisha said she found Michael’s letter and wanted to make good on a promise. She said she was thankful that Michael had played with Mason and kept him occupied during that flight delay last year.
“We hope you are doing well and your parents must be so proud of the friendly and sweet boy that you are. I also remember you were very smart! Most of all I remember how kind and patient you were with Mason. You sure made a great impression on us and we’re sorry it took us so long to write.”
Mason’s dad is an Army officer, stationed at Fort Wainwright, and they move a lot. But they love living in Alaska. Sure, it stays dark for 20 hours in the winter. And it gets cold. Three weeks ago it was -45 degrees, Alisha said. But there are reindeer and dog sledding. And the Northern Lights appear several nights a week, illuminating the winter skies with waves of ethereal light.
Of all the places they have lived, Alisha said Alaska was her favorite. She said she hoped Michael could see it some day. In the meantime, she invited Michael to stay in touch. Mason is just in kindergarten, so he can’t write all by himself yet. But Alisha promised to help him eventually write back to his friend.