Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Revisit Walnut Grove

Revisit Walnut Grove. 

Last week, I was working on a project, and for background noise, I wanted something relaxing. I didn’t want to listen to the news. I didn’t want to hear stupid talk shows. I didn’t need to know anything else about the pandemic…no real life, thank you very much. I started flipping through the channels, and I came upon an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I stopped flipping channels, and I decided to record it. I found two more upcoming episodes and recorded those too, and then I changed to a relaxing music channel, saving the shows for later.

When I was a little girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My parents gave them to me for Christmas one year. And I loved the TV show. The TV show premiered in September 1974, when I was seven years old, and I was the perfect age to think it was the greatest show ever! Anyone who was a little girl at the time probably remembers the Holly Hobbie dolls that became popular in 1975…likely due, in my opinion, to the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie TV show. But Holly Hobbie is a discussion for another time. As for Little House, I loved watching the life of Laura Ingalls and her family in the “wilderness.” 

I looked forward to it every week…for a couple of years anyway.  The show was on for nine seasons, but I didn’t watch it for those nine years. Little girls become preteens and teenagers, and tastes change; as a preteen and teen, I thought I was way too cool for Little House on the Prairie and stopped watching.

And then I grew up.

I went to middle school, high school, and I don’t think I watched another episode during that time. I went off to college, and after my junior year, I had an internship at a small town newspaper. I would go home every evening and watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I was growing up, I guess…I no longer thought I was too cool for the show. And every night, at some point during the show, I would cry. What the heck? The show, with its life lessons, would always elicit an emotional response. 

So last night, my husband and I settled in to watch a little TV before going to sleep, and I said, “I’ve recorded a couple of shows I think we should watch!” Was he thrilled when I said it was Little House on the Prairie? No, but we watched anyway. And he enjoyed watching it as much as I did. Yes, I cried. We watched back to back episodes titled Sylvia, parts 1 and 2, and they are heart wrenching episodes about a teenage girl being raised by her daughter. Sylvia, the character for whom the episodes are named, is a teenage girl being raised by her father. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, but she becomes pregnant as the result of a sexual assault. Albert Ingalls, the adopted son of the Ingalls family, is in love with her, and they plan to marry, even though they are mere teenagers…oh, it just gets worse after that. Heartbreaking.

My husband watched it, and even liked the show, but when I cried at the end, he did what he always does when I cry over a television show…he made fun of me.

Afterward, I posted on Facebook that we had watched a couple of episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and I was shocked at the number of responses! Lots of my friends said how they loved the show. One mentioned that Michael Landon, the actor who played Charles Ingalls, was easy on the eyes…indeed! Another said it was her favorite show of all time. And yet another mentioned Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson. 

My friend, Nikki, who lives in Alabama, somehow knew that Alison Arngrim is reading the books on Facebook Live, so I checked it out, and oh my! It’s worth tuning in! As it turns out, the girl who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson, is actually a hilarious adult! To see one of her Facebook Live readings, click here. And while you’re at Arngrim’s Facebook page, look around! She also has a comedy show where she dishes about the secrets of the show! That one requires the purchase of an online “ticket,” but I’m thinking it might be worth it after watching her hilarious readings.

If you decide to revisit Walnut Grove by watching some old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, just be forewarned that you’re likely to cry, and you might just become addicted. I’m likely to be watching it for months!  And if you want some of the behind-the-scenes dirt, check out Alison Arngrim on Facebook!