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BOX 388 was the post mailbox at my late grandmother’s house in Western Pennsylvania. I used tospend each morning during the summers, while staying with her, waiting for the postman to drive upwith the mail. You see, in rural towns, many of the roads just simply do not have names. Mygrandmother’s road was simply called RD 1, and it wasn’t exactly in the town. It was about 3 milesoutside the town. To locals, they knew it as ‘the Game School’ Road because the Pennsylvania GameCommission had a training facility about 12 miles ‘down the road’.

Imagine a beautiful quite country road with virtually no traffic. Literally about 10 cars would pass inwhat seem the entire day. The scent of lilac bushes and wild flowers in the air. There always seemedto be a soft breeze at that time of day (usually around 11a). On that country road, you could seenearly a half mile in either direction. An approaching car could be heard before seen….. probably aquarter mile before in site.

In the summers since my birth my parents would take a well needed and deserved break from mybrother and I. We would visit my maternal grandmother during that time. She lived in a farmhouseon what was a farm placed on 97 acres in Pennsylvania. When I was very young it was stillfunctioning as a farm with a barn, hen house, crops and the such. My mother and my grandmotherboth were born and raised in that house. It had so much history in it. I loved staying there becauseit seemed so much like the true definition of home. At that stage in my life (not even 10 years old), Ireally only had known two homes. My real home in Columbia, Maryland, where I lived with myparents and my brother, and this farmhouse that my mother grew up in. Indeed, we had all kinds ofextended family, and had lived in an apartment in Washington, D.C. before moving into the suburbsof Maryland, but these two homes were where I had memories, and history of my own as a person.My grandmother’s house was my favorite place on earth. I used to cry when I had to leave.

Each day, during our summer visits I would look forward to mail from my pen pals, schoolmates, andthe colorful postcards from my mother or father. My parents divorced when I was ten years old, butthe tradition of staying with my grandmother, and my parents each sending postcards from theirtravels continued from the many destinations they chose to escape to! It is funny, I never wanted togo on these trips with them. I loved the summers with my brother and grandmother so much, it hadbecome understood that was just what we all did for several weeks in July every year until I was ayoung adult.

One of my favorite summers of receiving mail was one in which my mother traveled across countryon motorcycle, camping along the route. Almost every other day the postman delivered photos andcards of old american western towns like Dodge City, Kansas; Indian reservations in Wyoming andOklahoma; and swinging hotels in Las Vegas (obviously that was not the camping portion of the trip)!

My imagination ran away with me in each card. I envisioned visiting each destination. That was thesummer I truly fell in love with a “letter”. I loved corresponding! I also had a few pen pal friends Ihad met in girls clubs and camp also. One in Champagne, Illinois and another in Oklahoma City. Idreamed of traveling not only to these places to visit my “friends”, but also had decided then that Iwanted to see the world! I wrote a letter to Amy Carter (President Jimmy Carter’s daughter) at theWhite House. I wanted to let her know that I, too, loved my cat, and his name was “Sugarfoot”. Shedid in fact (or her people did), send a returned postcard with a thank you note. I was thrilled!!! Shedid not sign it herself, but I didn’t care. I received a postcard from the WHITE HOUSE!!!!

What this did teach me is that it is appropriate to write a stranger as long as you clearly explainyourself and respect the individual you are encouraging to respond. Later in college, I encouragedmy friends to always write letters in protest or to articulate their dissatisfaction in an issue on campus(as long as you are always respectful and articulate). I sent letters to my Council Member here inNew York City about noise pollution in my neighborhood (he and his staff responded expeditiously)!!!Letters give you a voice! And I discovered that summer that I loved hearing the voices of my parentsand my friends even more! I sat on the front porch or in my grandmothers “front parlor” reading andwriting many of my days! Waiting for the postman! I lived and dreamed through that postbox….BOX 388 on the Game School Road!

So, in honor of it, I invite you to feel at “home” here and communicate with me through BOX 388. Wewill dream, communicate, share, and imagine. Build each other up and develop who we are asindividuals. We can not achieve anything until we know and love ourselves. Find what it is we want tobe. Embrace our need to evolve and welcome our imperfections!

We are in a digital world now, but letters still carry that same important part of communicating andsharing with one another (even on the net). So, in my first letter to “you”, and “you” may be mymentees at Washington-Irving High School in New York City, a classmate, a student that reaches outto me from the fine universities in the United States and Europe, or just simply a young personseeking advice in life or business. I invite you to not only talk to me, but with each other. Share yourdifferences, views, culture and experiences for other women, girls, and people like you.

I look forward to meeting you.

Lisa Ellis