Overseas pen pals unite after 27 years writing to each other
Ryan Summerlin October 11, 2012
Two “pen friends,” as they say in Australia, or “pen pals,” as we call them here in the States, first started writing to each other 27 years ago as teenagers and kept in touch all this time – only to meet for the first time recently in Breckenridge.
Will Inveen, of Canberra, Australia first corresponded with Breckenridge resident Cameron Laidlaw when he was 14 and she was 15. He took his school up on an announcement to sign up for a pen friend; she paid $.70 to cover the cost of befriending a boy her age from Down Under.
Over nearly three decades, the two maintained an unlikely friendship – through the trials and tribulations of their teenage years to one another’s engagements and on to marriage and kids.
“She has named her son after me, and my daughter has her name as well,” said Inveen, whose daughter is named Amelia Cameron. Inveen went through a period in which he spelled his first name with one ‘l,” so Laidlaw spelled her son’s name, “Wil.”
Inveen came to the U.S. for the first time in September at the invitation of Laidlaw’s husband, Douglass. Inveen suffers from polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and coincidentally, Laidlaw works for a pharmaceutical company that manages a team of people researching it. When he learned of the 2012 Los Angeles Walk for PKD taking place in Santa Monica, Ca., on Oct. 6, Laidlaw invited Inveen to the U.S. to participate, but bought him a ticket to arrive in Colorado first to surprise his wife.
“Cameron knew I was coming at some stage, but Doug and I conspired so I turned up [in Colorado instead of California] about a week and half early,” Inveen said. “Cameron said he’s not very good at keeping secrets – but he did this time.”
That’s how her pen friend showed up at the door unannounced, bearing an American flag. “I think when I first knocked at the door she thought I was an election campaigner,” Inveen said, chuckling. “She let me in and was really surprised. I sat down with this person who I’d never seen in my whole life and we just knew each other so well.”
They had a good laugh reading some of their early correspondences aloud, samples of which Inveen brought with him. “I still have all of her letters, including the very first one I received,” he said, explaining how they went from handwritten letters to email and then Facebook over the years – though the two made a pact not to Skype or video chat until they could meet in person.
“It’s just been really nice – a funny relationship where I’ve never met these people, but the moment I stepped into their home I felt like I’ve known them for years,” Inveen said. “Her husband Doug – I helped him fix the car the other day and we talked and talked. It’s an unusual feeling; I really love this family.”
Inveen spent a little over a week in Breckenridge enjoying the sunny weather and learning to fly fish before setting off for the PKD walk in LA and a whirlwind tour of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam before heading back to Australia.