Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Good Day For Mail

Usually, I don't check my mailbox; in Chicago, it was the opposite direction from my front door, all I ever got were bills, and it was too cold to stay outside long enough to run up the stairs. Here, it's still the opposite direction from my front door, but it's been too hot. Plus, old habits die hard. Today, though, as I was putting my key in the lock, I thought, "Mail!" and looped right around. Not sure why that thought was powerful enough to move me today, but it was.

Lo and behold, there was the postlady, locking up the banks of boxes. It's quite a sight, if you've never seen it -- many tens of rectangles angled out to look like one long triangle, like geometric mouths with braces. I went to mine, fresh closed up into the wall. I turned the key. I squealed. (Really, I did. If you have a hard time believing that, well, then you probably don't know me very well.)

"Good day for mail?" she asked, a lilt in her voice.

"Yes! Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness yes!" I said back.

A moment for context: I used to babysit for a family in Chicago, and I love them. My love for them is so big the only word for it is BIG, in all capital letters. And here for the last week or two I've been feeling like I have to send them cards or maybe the next time I mail them something it will be awkward, and I don't want that -- what if I've missed the correspondence gap? (Those of you who send regular mail understand this fear. You should know that with me, there is no such thing as too long or too short between letters.)

But there, in my mailbox, squished against a bill for Ashley Eukhert (who doesn't understand the concept of changing an address) was a big yellow-orange envelope with handwriting and STICKERS. OHMYGOODNESS OHMYGOODNESS OHMYGOODNESS.

A package! A package! WOW! But WAIT. What is this larger than normal padded envelope just underneath it?

ANOTHER package! It even had a 'delivery confirmation' sticker. The return address? A person I haven't spoken to in years, but about whom I once cared a great deal.

A moment about that phrase, to 'care a great deal.' For me, this means that at the time that I knew him, I felt we had a stake in each others' existences, that how I lived my life was of concern to him in a positive way, and vice versa. That we put thought into each other. This is still true; what he wrote in his letter made me think in a way that will change me a little, or maybe a lot, if we look at this in terms of angles. Today, this was a little thing. If his thoughts from today stay with me as long as his thoughts from way back when have stayed, well, the projection of the angle grows. So today, I got a letter from an old friend about whom I care a great deal.

It wasn't just a letter, it was a bookmark, too. In 1923, Robert Frost and his son planted 1,000 pine trees at their farm in Vermont. Two trees were harvested in 2009 for local artisans to make beautiful things from.

Frost is my favorite poet. So when this friend moved on to the next thing in his life, I gave him my favorite copy of my favorite collection of Frost's work. Today, years later, this friend sent me a piece of something Frost himself planted, and he sent it enclosed in some beautiful thoughts. Reading them felt like just yeasterday we'd left off the thread of a conversation.

So I opened his package first. Then I rather gingerly broke the seal on the large envelope from the family I used to sit. Inside, I found this beautiful art:

1. A First Painting:

2. A Banner

3. Another Banner

There were notes, too. Really lovely notes, with phrases like, "Tomorrow is peace day at school I made a shirt," and "I want to see you too," and "We got your letter thank you I like your card I miss you how is TX," just like that, which are really heartwarming things to see spelled correctly in mostly straight handwriting. My favorite thing about these kids, (trust me, it's hard to pick a favorite thing) is how honest and open they are. I love their willingness to ask anything and say what they feel, but also how thoughtful, clear, enthused their words are. In a note I almost missed because it was stuck to the back of the painting, their mother promised to steal me and never give me back if I came to visit.

Today, I felt a few little gems of life with them in it. I feel full. Not overflowing -- just perfectly full of peaceyness, all the way up.

This is not the only kindness my mailbox has treated me to lately. A little more than a week ago, I was told in an unlooked for letter from another old friend that I am warm and 'glinty eyed' and that sometimes this person thinks of me when cooking or jumping into lakes. The best part of this one, though, was this, in chickeny scrawl on a yellow piece of slightly rumpled mini legal paper: "Just met a teacher atop Mt. Katahdin. Apparently there is space camp for teachers. Just so you know what's out there. Are you writing at all these days?"

My mailbox has been good to me of late.

(You may wonder why I include no names here -- it's because the internet is scary and googleable, and I don't want other people's contributions to my life to be tagged and named and scattered across the unknown permanence of this particular web. I think that would be unfair.)

Today, I opened my mailbox and I felt, I physically felt, the weight of how much a few people I really care about love me. I felt, where often I only hope, that opening or giving myself to people really does come back. I think there is a difference between knowing and expecting it to be true that the people we love love us back. I feel it fairly often, but today I felt it like a cocoon. Some days, we really can get the thought we put into people given back to us, tenfold. I know, because it happened. Today. Unexpectedly. In my mailbox.

Sure, my tendency to open myself up to everyone I meet may cause me occasional pain, and there is a lesson in that -- the people who witness your life have a power over it, so I'm really trying to let the self select and not give binoculars to negativity. But today, my mailbox was basically overflowing with the physical manifestations of certain beautiful friendships, and that makes it all worth it.

Letters aren't just objects. They are unique dedications of time and affection which you can hold, lose, find, touch, smell...

I suppose it's ironic to talk about the merits of physical communication in a blog, but today was too good not to share in as many mediums as are physically (or electronically) possible.

My contentment is fuzzy, full, and BIG -- a blanket better than even the heavy Texas air.

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