Samara O'Shea

Dear Kate

This morning I dropped a letter in the mail to my darling cousin Kate. She is one of two cousins that I have named Kate (I’ll be writing to the other one on April 12th). This Kate (a.k.a. Dr. Kate because she’s a real live MD) is one year younger than I am. She’s also the cousin (I have many) that I am closest with. It’s most appropriate that she’s the first person I’d write to this month because we were prepubescent pen pals long before e-mail was an option. We started writing to each other (I’m taking a wild guess here) when I was in 3rd grade and she in 2nd. We didn’t live far from each other—she lived in Haverford, PA, and I in Mantua, NJ—and I saw her several times a year, but that didn’t matter. I enjoyed writing and loved receiving her letters just the same.

The Talented Miss Kate started at NYU Medical School in the fall of 2003. At the time, I was living on 22nd Street just off of 2nd Ave. in Manhattan, and NYU Medical happens to be 10 blocks north of that. Oh great fortune! Kate, as you can imagine, was very busy during school, but we lived close enough that grabbing ice cream, coffee, or eating at a diner was doable. We did that often. This is when Kate evolved into being more than my cousin but also my friend. My next Manhattan move—in the summer of 2004—was to the Upper West Side and Kate’s, shortly there after, to the Upper East Side. There was nothing but a big park between us. We both joined the New York Road Runners Club and would meet often on Sunday mornings to run 4-mile races through Central Park. We also waited in line for five hours one morning to snag free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. With books, magazines, journals, sleeping bags, pillows and good conversation on hand, 5 hours in line can be quite enjoyable!

After graduating (in the top 25 of her class!) from NYU Medical, Kate waited to patiently to find out where she’d be doing her residency (it’s an involved selection process). Months earlier, I had purchased a house with my sister just outside Philadelphia. I had all my fingers crossed that Dr. Kate would end up in Philly, which was a viable option for her. The Universe ensured that, once again, Kate and I would not live too far from each other. She ended up at a hospital in North Philly, and has been working insane hours ever since.

I have been most fortunate to have Kate so close to me the past few years, and I hope this trend continues for the rest of our lives. I dug up an old letter that she wrote to me for your reading pleasure. I realize it’s not fair to show a letter that she wrote to me and not one that I wrote to her, but all of the letters I wrote are in her possession, and she won’t find out about this blog until Friday (when she receives her letter), so this will have to suffice. She wrote this toward the tail end of our penpalmanship, when she was a freshman in High School . . . back when life was oh so simple and yet so complicated:

October 24, 1994


Darling how are you? It’s been such a long time. How’s school? Misty and Melissa are doing fine, I hope. Who’s the latest love of your life? As for me, his name is Jeff. The only problem is I don’t like him. Ya know how I was so desperate for a date to the Harvest Moon? Well he’s the friend of a friend, and he said he’d go with me. It’s so embarrassing! He’s really shy—and his hair is bright red! I got a dress. It’s green crushed velvet with lace. Knee length, long sleeves. I have to go shoe shopping tomorrow. And—my mom said I could get my hair done. Wish me luck with that the evening goes well.

As for my social life—it’s doing pretty well. I’d really like to know what people think of me. So far, I’m thought of as a friend to all groups (popular people, athletes, nerds) this is fine with me. I’d like to be thought of as an all around nice person.

You HAVE to transfer to my school! You don’t need to be smart (but that doesn’t matter because you are) and you don’t have to be rich (we’re not though I wish we were. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about dates. I could just buy a boyfriend). People come to Merion from all parts of NJ. We’d have a blast! (Actually, you probably wouldn’t want to hang around me because I’m a freshman!)

I have to go. See ya soon!


P.S. Don’t miss the colors of the rainbow while looking for a pot of gold.

* She used to address me as Scarlett O’Hara. I had a Gone with the Wind obsession for a while.

In Response:

April 1, 2009

Dear Katie,

You ARE an all around nice person. The nicest I know! And don’t go buying boys. It’s unnecessary and illegal.

Lots of love,

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with