For four years, Lindsey Hannan would leave paper notes on commercial Christmas trees, hoping someone would write her back.
But the fourth-grade student from Beaverton, Ore. never got a response until now.
"Wow, what is this?" Lindsey, 10, recalled saying when she received a package of letters in late December.
Nearly 600 miles away in Sacramento, Erin Sims, a third-grade teacher at Dyer-Kelly Elementary School, had bought one of 20 Christmas trees that had Lindsey's handwritten notes.
"I just picked one randomly," said Sims, 29. "The letter fell out and the workers ran after me."
"I am 10 years old and I love to sing and do art," Lindsey wrote. "What is your favorite thing to do? Write back soon!"
Instead of one response, Sims decided to have her whole class of 31 third-graders write back to the Oregon student. Very soon, Lindsey became the group's mystery pen pal.
On Friday, the students at Dyer-Kelly were in for a treat when Lindsey flew to Sacramento for a visit.
Amid a backdrop of gifts and the clicking of cameras, Lindsey, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, was welcomed like a celebrity. Her fans – Sims' third-grade students – had a never-ending stream of questions to ask her.
"Who is your favorite singer?" Andrea Ceja asked.
"Taylor Swift," Lindsey said, handling the questions with ease, like any politician trained to deal with the media.
But one question seemed to catch her a bit off guard: "What's your favorite dolphin?"
"Bottlenose dolphin," she quickly said.
Lindsey also shared details of her five pets, which include a rabbit and a salamander.
And in something of a coincidence, Lindsey recently learned that two of her grandparents attended Dyer-Kelly Elementary School in the 1950s.
"It never came up until Christmas," said Jim Hannan, Lindsey's father, recalling the revelation.
Hannan brought several yearbook photos of Lindsey's grandfather to share with the class Friday.
The third-graders spent the day with their newfound friend, asking her more questions and having lunch together.
"This is one of those moments where everything happens for a reason," Sims said, smiling.
Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.