By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – In today’s connected age, friendships can thrive across oceans and continents.
Patti Thompson hosted six foreign exchange students at her Tupelo home from 1988 to 1992. She keeps in touch with all of them, but Thompson and Lizeke de Clerck of Breda, Holland, have a special bond.
“We are on Facebook every day,” Thompson said.
On Christmas Day, the pair shared face-to-face time thanks to Skype, a video-conferencing service on the Internet.
“It’s great to talk to you today, instead of typing,” Thompson said.
“Yeah, I know,” de Clerck said from six hours away. “It’s easier this way.”
De Clerck said the “big gift explosion” day in Holland is Dec. 5, Sint Nicolaas Day.
“Christmas is a personal time in my family when we give each other one gift,” she said.
She also used the day to connect with Thompson and her husband, Stephen. During their Skype chat, de Clerck updated the Thompsons on her sons, Chris, 9, and Benjamin, 6.
Both boys took time in front of the computer camera, and Benjamin showed off his Perry the Platypus shirt.
Thompson picked up her laptop and carried it around the house, giving de Clerck a virtual tour of Christmas decorations.
They reminisced about their time together since 1991, when de Clerck came to Mississippi to sample life in the United States.
She’s been back to Tupelo since, and Thompson has traveled overseas to see de Clerck and other students she’d hosted. Pickled herring was usually among the offerings on that trip, and the mention of them still causes Thompson to make a sour face.
“My parents made sure you got some decent food,” de Clerck said.
“They took me to Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Thompson said, adding Domino’s Pizza also was provided.
This long-distance friendship runs deep. More than a decade ago, Thompson was going through serious health issues. She didn’t tell de Clerck. She didn’t have to.
“She sent me an email that said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you better tell me,’” Thompson said.
“I dreamed of you crying,” de Clerck said. “We don’t need Skype, do we?”
In addition to dreams that challenge notions about what’s possible, Facebook remains their daily tool for keeping the friendship together.
And every now and again, they enjoy the chance to look at digital versions of each other.
“We don’t Skype as often as I would like, but we try to do it on special occasions, like birthdays and stuff” Thompson said. “I guess Christmas counts.”