Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bottle Notes



Once upon a time in the days before cell phones and the dreadfully unhappy years before the internet, Chesapeake Bay Girl was bored--exceedingly bored.

Faced with the same tedious options every day and living in near isolation in Mathews, she thought about ways to break out of her daily rut of making forts, climbing trees, riding ponies and spying on Middle Sister, whose behavior never ceased to amaze her.

A yen for travel, exploration and communication with other people besides her crazy kinfolk loving family began to take root.

One day while kicking pine cones around the shoreline of the creek, she came upon the place where her grandparents used to dump their glass, including old bottles that once held orange marmalade, Jean Nate' or milk (yes, kids, milk used to come in glass bottles) but which now housed periwinkle shells and creek mud.

The light bulb went off, and an idea was born. Why not write notes, stuff them in these bottles, toss 'em overboard and pray that some Unknown Person Far Away will find them and call back, as instructed? This way she'd actually hear from a human being who (theoretically) wasn't from Mathews while simultaneously conducting an important social and scientific experiment. If only she kept track of the time and the tides, she might have had herself a really fine scientific experiment.

Despite the demands requests in each note that the finder call to report where the bottle was found, the phone never rang. Except once.

Once--and only once--out of the dozen or three bottles tossed from the banks of Queens Creek, someone found one of my messages and called to report in as commanded instructed on the note.

When my mother told me, I rejoiced. Surely he was from the Eastern Shore of the bay; or perhaps from some other exotic destination along the Eastern Seaboard (there are so many, after all).

So where was this person and how far had my bottle traveled?

Up the creek a ways. Not out the creek. Not on the shores of Gwynn's Island, not along the bay. Just up the creek a ways.

Thankfully the internet has replaced bottle notes, but somehow or another I can't shake that "up the creek" theme in my life.

Did you communicate with people outside your comfort zone before the internet? Did anyone out there have pen pals? As of Blog Fest I know of one person who is married to a life long pen pal. This is amazing to me, yet reinforces my belief that you can come to know someone far better through the written word than through any other medium.

Bottle notes notwithstanding.

21 comments:

TSannie said...

OK, I missed that one. WHO is married to their life-lon g pen pal??? Inquiring minds want to know! Plus, I'm really impressed!

foolery said...

At my going away party from Maui (age 21) there were two Navy boats in town, and a whole mess of horny young sailors filled our regular club. We danced until 4:00 a.m. and we had a blast.

One young guy (shorter than me, CBW) looked deeply into my eyes and shyly said, "I'm shipping out for a long, long time, and I'm going to Diego Garcia." (In the middle of the Indian Ocean; definitely look it up under "utter isolation.")

I knew what was coming, right?

Nope.

"Would you write to me?"

Never saw that coming. Pen pals for about six months (probably until his girl back home found out).

The end. Blather, blather, blather, los siento mucho.

Angela said...

I love that bottle idea! And it worked with my 4 year old daughter! We had prepared a bottle with her address and dropped it from our ferry to Sweden into the Baltic Sea. A few weeks later she got a letter from an 11 year old girl who found it on the Danish island where she spent her vacations. The girls wrote for two years (my daughtie dictated, I wrote), until...the other girl, by now in her puberty, sent a photo. She had a bosom! She wasn`t a child friend anymore! But it was sweet while it lasted!
Can I go on here? You asked about pen-pals. My older daughter, then six, wanted a pen-pal in the farthest-away corner of Germany (we living up in the North). So we looked at the map and she wrote to the Mayor of Lindau on the Bodensee: Please help me find a pen-pal my age. And he did!
(This also only lasted till they met in person). But I also used to write letters ever since I was young... and they got me to America (read my post of "Mr. Generous) - but now I`ll shut up. Thanks for your patience.

nativedevil said...

I tried to be pen pals with someone from California once when I was very young, but it didn't last very long. I always thought it was a fun idea, though.
I used to love finding old bottle piles out in the woods. Found some great antique ones.
And don't give up on notes in the bottle--just go out into the bay, who knows where it will end up.
Great picture today,too.

BOSSY said...

Bossy always was an oversharer, which, for starters, is beyond the typical comfort zone.

Bossy had pen-pals in school and was always a letter writer. That turned into chronic emailer, then an emailer to a list of friends, then I Am Bossy, the end.

Caution Flag said...

When I was a child, we did a balloon send-off at church. Weeks later the finder of my balloon called from the Chesapeake area. I was thrilled that my balloon had made it all the way to the Atlantic! I may have bragged a bit. Unfortunately, there is a Chesapeake, Ohio - just across the Ohio River from my Kentucky hometown. That's all I'm saying about that experience.

I'm sorry. Your post asked about pen pals - not balloons. I stumbled onto blogging in my search for pen pals. What a wonderful find that was!

Daryl said...

First of all,Foolery, I am taller than you AND CBW .. not if you are standing on top of one another tho ..

I had a pen pal .. I got him, he was from Italy, from a pen pal thing at the World's Fair held in Flushing, Queens, NYC back in the semi dark ages.

I think of you'all as pen pals or maybe keyboard pals .. email pals... pals, for sure!

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I had a penpal when I was a kid- wait..that's right~I'm still a kid!

I love all the pals I've met via my keyboard.

Grandma J said...

No penpals here...just blog pals.

Country Girl said...

My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons.
In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really.

Country Girl said...

Sorry. I just love movie quotes.

big hair envy said...

I remember having a couple of pen pals.....the most exciting part of that experience was actually GETTING MAIL!!! Now, I have pen pals who live in my computer, and I DREAD getting mail....it's mostly bills and credit card solicitations. My, how times have changed;)

Lynne M. said...

When I was 8 (ish), me and my parents spent Easter in St. Augustine, FL. I sent a plastic Easter egg with my info in it out into the ocean. Low and behold, here comes a letter to my house with MY name on it!! I don't remember where she was from, but we were pen-pals for a while. It was fun. Haven't had one since, tho.

Mental P Mama said...

I had some pen pals. And I wrote John Denver a heartfelt letter once. He sent me an autographed picture. I have it in my closet as we speak. Does that count?

Audrey at Barking Mad said...

I'm assuming I'm that one person you know of who has married a life long pen pal.

However, I've never sent a note in a bottle and you've just given me a great idea for a project that Gaby Rose and I can do together!

Now all I have to do is go get a bunch of bottles, some corks and have myself a little wine fest and then send out some notes in bottles from the coast here in Maine.

Ann Marie said...

I know this is like going to be a shock and all... but I updated my blog and well.. put pics on there of why I couldn't join all you lovely ladies.. I still cry a bit when I think of all I missed!

AM The watermans wife

Ann Marie said...

I had a pen pal in Texas.. she was of Spanish decent an spoke no English.. I couldn't read her letters and she couldn't read mine but we kept it up for quite awhile.. yea.. I am blonde like that.

and CBW do NOT let you kids get wind of the idea of bottle tossing.. i will have to dig up the story but one Mommy person got fined a heavy chunk of change by the USCG for doing just that with her child and guess how they knew who to find.. cause they got the note out of the bottle.. something about the Bay and Littering..

Me personally I would have told them I was not littering I was attempting to communicate with an intelligent life form.. and obviously this was a failure.

tj said...

...Yeah, I sent a note up in a balloon once but never heard anything back. Chances are a big bird caught it and took the note and made nesting material out of it...*sigh* Such is the story of my life... *giggle* ;o)

...Blessin's... :o)

Annie said...

Oh the sea, the sea...how I wished I lived beside the sea. Any houses for sale there?

No I never put a note in a bottle...how boring. Nor a pen pal. But I do enjoy writing. I think I am better at writing than talking! I think. I guess it depends on what the recipient thinks really!

;-)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

TSA - Ms. Audrey, and what a story it is.

Foolery-You did a post on this, if I remember correctly, great story, all except the short part. Not that there's anything wrong with short.

Angela- You always tell the best stories, you've had such an interesting life and clearly your daughters have too. Don't ever stop painting your pictures with words.

Nativedevil - Those old bottle piles are the best. Hope you kept the antique ones.

Bossy-You're my hero.

Caution Flag - That's pretty funny, but also exciting. At least it went somewhere, and someone found it.

Daryl - You'll have to come back for an official height measurement. How does the crab steam on August 8 sound?

NNG - This pen pal will be happy to hang out with you IRL more regularly than the annual Blog Fest. (Again, crab steam August 8, check e-mail, it will be fun.)

Grandma J. - You're the best blog pal a person could ever hope for, and one of the funniest. When we do the Blog Fest movie, your career in stand-up comedy is going to take right off. Along with Mr. Crab's.

Country Girl - Hilarious.

BHE-I avoid the post office (where I drive to pick up my mail because they don't deliver down my lane) like the plague, much to my postmaster's chagrin.

Lynne M. - That is an incredible story! A plastic Easter egg?

MPM- Yes, it counts. Bring that with you when you move to Mathews, we'll donate it to Donk's Theater where you'll be performing in your red cowboy boots.

Audrey - I think it's such a great story. There might just be a movie hiding in it somewhere...can you tell I am really into this movie thing? Seriously, yours is an incredible story.

AnnMarie - I still think you, Binky and The Waterman could start your own tour business on the side. And yes, throwing bottle notes would be considered littering.

tj-The fact that you tried is all that matters. Who knows, maybe someone did find it and is waiting patiently for the next Blog Fest to occur so she can finally meet you in person--since you were the one who made her start a blog to begin with.

Annie - Yes! Plenty of houses for sale. You'd love it here, lots to photograph, an endless array of choices actually.

Whew. I hope I didn't overlook anyone, if so please know it's because my eyes are crossed from exhaustion and overload.

It's almost Friday.

tj said...

...Oh stop CBW, you're gonna make me cry...and what a killer blog it is too - I'm so proud of you. *sigh w/a tear* ;o)

...Btw, I was over at Kate's place and she has a link to the local newspaper in her post today and OMG! - the BlogFest made the paper! That is the coolest thing since sliced bread! Congrat's! :o)

...You're the BEST! Bless ya girl... :o)