Greta brought me an envelope today and asked if we could mail her dad a kiss to Colorado. Her earnest nature about missing her dad, in Breckinridge for two weeks, combined with her love of the post office prompted the above visit. We did not mail him a kiss because I explained he would be home Friday, likely before her kiss would arrive; however, I felt the parenting winning moment for the fact that our not quite five year old opted for the old school mail form of communication instead of cell phone hugs or Facetime chats. My husband, Geoff, is on the road a lot in the winter especially in his position as a member of the National PSIA Demonstration Team. We are grateful for modern conveniences like Facetime and text messaging pictures of cool things our kids are doing like skiing or dancing or building snowmen while he is away so he doesn’t miss out; he sends them pictures of big mountains or statues of eagles and wooly mammoths.
However, for someone like me who continues to send real mail to friends on birthdays, like actual mail complete with return address and postage, I loved this moment with my child. She sees me write letters; she is beginning to write some herself to her cousins on Martha’s Vineyard and understands the importance of thank you notes. Both our kids love to visit the North Woodstock Post Office and our postmaster Kim Dunham. They do in fact call her Postmaster Kim directly. We collect our mail; we chat with whoever is also in the post office; we ask Kim questions; we mail packages and recycle the junk mail. Today, Carver had an invitation to his friend’s birthday party, and both kids had a thank you note from another friend’s birthday party. They, like their mom, love to get real mail.
I remember how happy mail made me in college, especially those first few weeks when I was so homesick, never before having had to make new friends. I wrote 100 cards or letters the first three weeks of school; I know this because my parents had sent me with a roll of stamps, which were gone by my mother’s birthday. Reading recently that Bates College had closed its regular mailboxes for students due to a lack of real mail and overabundance of junk mail coupled with package overload from places like Amazon made me sad. (For more info, check out: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/03/31/bates-college-mailboxes-shutting-for-good/E1j9y5bgty0UIie4qr4UrO/story.html)
My students write letters to themselves in the beginning of ninth grade and again their senior year, which I collect and hide and then mail out the spring following graduation. We pay the postage out of pocket because it is a small price to pay for former graduates to glimpse themselves again as 14 year olds, when the road they would take might change their direction. Letters become artifacts, and one can argue that the words in an email can render the same effect; yet, they are different. These letters kids write contain handwriting styles and doodles and maybe even secret messages to friends. A handwritten letter may contain the smudge of a cookie snack or a hearted lower case i, which is far less irritating- endearing even- to a teacher than someone who just refuses the capitalization rule for I.
But back to our actual post office…I grew up with a mailbox at the end of my driveway and never knew the mailman or mail-woman who drove our route. Given a crazy schedule, there are days we do not make it to the P.O, unlike my father who can’t fathom not making his daily appearance to gather the mail. While at Conn College, I must have broken records for most mail delivered to a human being; my entire town wrote to me, and this is not a gross exaggeration. And, that helped me to transition to college. When I battled the urban education system in Philadelphia, my teachers from elementary and high school wrote me letters to bolster the belief I could make it. And I did.
Today, we blew kisses, all three of us at home, into a business size envelope. We blew kisses into an envelope and sealed it shut and wrote the word “Daddy” on it to be given to him when he returns home, or to be mailed locally as a treat with a note on the outside to remind our traveling daddy how much we love him, especially when he is gone and then even more when he comes home. Greta was so proud of herself, that it was her idea to mail her dad a letter all the way to Colorado because she knew it would make him happy. Even if he could not see or feel her kiss, he would love the idea of it. That’s what good mail can do, and why we need our postmasters and our post offices. Thank you, Postmaster Kim Dunham, for supporting a family of letter writers, no matter rain, sleet or snow. We know not every postmaster in the world could possibly be as fun and nice and helpful as our Kim, but we are going to believe that to be the case. So, go old school and send a friend a letter or card and buy a stamp at your local post office.