Twenty-three years ago, Zoe Lemon, a 10-year-old schoolgirl on vacation with her family on the eastern coast of England, wrote a letter to no one in particular. In neat print, she described her pet hamster and goldfish (both named Sparkle), and asked the recipient to please write back. She signed it, “Yours hopefully, Zoe,” slipped the letter into a bottle, and tossed it into the sea.
A few weeks ago, a man named Piet Lateur was walking his dog on the beach in the Netherlands, when he noticed a plastic bottle on the shore with something inside. Sure enough, it was Zoe’s letter, two decades later, 350 miles away, and preserved well enough to read the little girl’s plea for a response — and her return address.
Piet brought his amazing discovery home with him, where he and his wife composed a sweet letter back:
“I found a little plastic bottle containing a message…your message dated Sept. 12, 1990! As you kindly asked me (“dear finder”) to write you, I took the liberty to do so and to enclose a copy of your touching little message.”
On Christmas day (because could this story get any sweeter?), Zoe, now married with a child of her own, was shocked when her parents arrived to celebrate the holiday with an unexpected gift: a letter from the Netherlands addressed to her. “The first thing I saw was my handwriting as a child and my little letter saying who I was and about my pets and my hobbies,” she says. “It made me a bit emotional.”
Zoe and Piet have been in touch via email, and Zoe hopes to visit the place where her bottle eventually washed up. She’s also planning to have her 5-year-old son compose his own message in a bottle, that is, when “he’s a bit older and can understand and write a letter.”