‘On Paper I Am My Genuine Self’: How Pen Pals Around The World Keep One Woman Connected To Humanity And Herself

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shaniece Windsor has 10 pen pals around the world, women with whom she exchanges stories and fears as well as questions and advice.

Chicago Tribune

When Shaniece Windsor was 8, she and her older brother moved from Brooklyn, in New York, to Puerto Rico to live with their grandmother and aunt.

Windsor’s parents were separating, and her mom needed time to get her bearings. She joined her children in Puerto Rico six months later.

Letters were their lifeline.

“I would write to my mom, and she would write to me,” Windsor, 41, said. “She would send me secret money, so I could buy candy.”

Her grandmother wrote letters, too, careful not to lose touch with her family members who lived across the island and those who’d moved to New York.

“We were always writing,” Windsor said.

Windsor’s mom went to school in Puerto Rico to become an instrument technician and eventually found a job in New York. The three of them, mom, son and daughter, moved back to Brooklyn when Windsor was 13.

“Then I wrote letters to all the friends I made in Puerto Rico,” Windsor said.

It’s possible those early compositions awakened a writing muscle for Windsor to exercise and lean on throughout her life.

When she and her now-husband, Pedro, were 18-year-old sweethearts, they wrote each other notes on the computers at their jobs (hers at Gap, his at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center), printed them out and mailed them to each other.

But it’s just as possible to let a letter-writing muscle atrophy, as so many of us do in an era of texts and likes and Instagram stories.

Windsor, now a mom of two children, ages 4 and 6, is still flexing.

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