Several weeks ago, I received a lovely gift and a short-but-sweet note from an old friend. She sent them in December, but it took a long while for the parcel to make its way across the pond.

Mija and I met in September of 1990. A Slovenian and an American in the south of Ireland. Two Slovenians, actually, as Mija was traveling with her friend Damjana. A month or so later, I reconnected with both of them in Ljublana as my sister and I were making our way across the continent. They were gracious enough to let us stay in their homes (a major upgrade from the youth hostels) and give us a guided tour of their hometown. I will never forget their kindness.

I’ve stayed in touch with both Mija and Damjana over the years, as they’ve each married, had two kids, and navigated the uncharted waters of adulthood. But I haven’t seen Mija in 30 years.

“Pen pals” is what they used to call it, and what it used to be. Now it’s the occasional email for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas… except for the note that Mija wrote at the end of 2019. Looks like we’re still pen pals.

Mija and Damjana tried to teach my sister and me a few Slovenian words back in 1990. Fittingly, the only one I remember is “hvala”… “thank you.” I will cherish the cup. I cherish the friendship even more.