“Did you get the mail?” I ask my husband anxiously as he walks in the door with my daughter home from camp.
“No, I never get the mail,” he reminds me and I roll my eyes because he had to walk past the mailboxes after he retrieves our girl.
“Fine, I’ll go get it.”
“Who cares? What are you waiting for? Nothing good ever comes in the mail.”
I grab my keys, slip on my flip-flops and hightail it to the lobby. He can’t take away my little pleasure, my secret hope for something special to arrive in my silver box. I put the key in, turn it and in that moment just before I open the little silver door, a world of anticipation fills my imagination. Usually, as I unhinge the door, I validate my husband; nothing good is usually inside.
Nonetheless, I love it. The mail is magic.
In fourth grade, we were assigned pen pals, which meant a flyer came home asking our parents to check “Yes” or “No” if they wanted their child to correspond with a pal their age from another country. I didn’t bother even showing the flyer to my parents and instantly made a bold “X” next to YES, I would like a pen pal.
They paired me up with Colin, a boy from England. He wrote to me of playing football and day school and eating trifle. I imagined a grand romance brewing with the boy across the ocean. Whenever those letters arrived in their Air Mail almost transparent envelopes, addressed specifically to me, with foreign stamps and funny return addresses where the zip code was written first, they gave me such thrills, which still hold a warm place in my heart.
My correspondence with Colin didn’t last beyond a few months, but the fantasy and sexiness of correspondence across an ocean have stuck with me. The concept of depositing a letter into a box and someone else receiving it across the world isn’t dulled down for me. Despite modern communication: first fax, then email and later text messages, which allow instant communication rather than several days wait, I still marvel at the tangible surprises which show up when I open the little silver box with my apartment number etched into it.
A letter is more than merely transported words; it is a piece of art. A piece of paper selected for a particular correspondence and ink chosen to coordinate with the particular paper. The page is filled with thoughts which went from your brain through your fingers and formed letters and words and stories and memories of life, which fill a page and can be kept forever; a brain-to-paper miracle.
I’ve always been fascinated with the genius that is our postal system. For 45 cents, someone will hand-deliver your envelope to a recipient across the country. A letter can take a cross-country flight, and arrive still lingering in the sender’s perfume.
I know nowadays it’s mostly bills, local menus, and a few lingering magazines which fill the tiny box in the grand grid, but sometimes there are unexpected treats like a handmade card from my sister for no occasion or an invitation to a cousin’s wedding or a baby announcement someone actually printed on a very thick cardstock.
I love checking the mail because it’s a symbol that anything can happen. It’s not winning the lottery but people can surprise you. Life sends unexpected things in mysterious ways and I want to make sure I’m always checking so I don’t miss it.