You've Got Mail
Contest entry "portrait of mail boxes in a post office."
You’ve Got Mail
The precise, rectangular array of the postal boxes was both geometric in design and appealing to the appreciative eye. Behind each brown metal door, sat a rectangular-spaced receptacle that held the arrival of postal missives from far and wide, across the North American continent and even the lands across our surrounding oceans.
In Southwest Florida, we are home to peoples from everywhere. Letters arrive daily from as far away as Omaha Nebraska and Portland Maine. When our Canadian and European friends join us every year, the span of distance is much greater. Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Canada serve as mail feeder hubs for us.
One could imagine giant maps of these regions sitting outlined above the brown rectangular orifices. Every time a missive arrived, a glowing electrical pinpoint would be reflected on the map’s surface. In season, the lit-up nodes would form a bright array of electrical bulbs, reflecting the arrival of letters from every different area.
Circulars from Ontario and Connecticut would offer products of every type. Bills, notices, pleas for money and heartfelt correspondence would compete with each other for space in the small receptacles. In some boxes, the space would be crowded with mail. Perhaps a resident had tarried in their arrival. An avalanche of mail awaited them. Some others maybe had passed from this mortal coil. They would never open the letters awaiting them. Speculation of who had sent the missives, why the mail was sent and whether or not an urgent reply was requested all lay as yet undiscovered in the linear array of mail boxes.
I rummaged about in my pockets for the small metal key that would open up the cave of missives, like a chant from Alladin, revealing the surprises that lay within. Today, my lot was rather plebian. An auto dealer wanted me to drive by and pick up a new vehicle, for only a small fortune monthly. I only had to pay the ransom for the next seven years. What a deal! Another letter reminded me that I was getting older and should be buying lots more life insurance. Thanks for the reminder. And then, I stumbled onto a treasure worthy of Aladdin’s cave. It was a missive from my sister Mary. She was currently struggling with whole complex of physical ailments. Yet, her letter’s tone was as cheerful and informative as ever. She told me how well her kids and grandchildren were doing and asked after our health. Her writing style was both personal and informative. It was one of those letters that make you smile with the knowledge of how much that person means to you. It was a day brightener for me.
Discarding the ads and carefully folding Mary’s letter, I looked again at the U-shaped array of metal receptacles and wondered again at the wealth of information that lay waiting within. Many, many people would receive welcome missives like I had and treasure them as mementos of loved ones far away. Others might receive more dire news of family emergencies and bits of struggle in places now far way.
I don’t know that we fully treasure our mail service like people of a few generations back did. Then, a letter was both a family and community event for those around you. Welcome news of a family, left far behind, filled everyone’s imaginations with a land and a culture no so very far away. Friends and family would gather round and listen to the words of relatives whom they had not seen or heard from in months or even years.
As I left the postal facility, I nodded my head to those faithful retainers who kept the mail coming and going through rain, snow and storms. These steady folks brought our lives together by their daily ministering of the U.S. Postal system. They worked unheralded and unacknowledged. They brought greetings and news from everywhere to our door. Thanks, Postal employees, for doing what you do in so steady and faithful a fashion.
And I will come again tomorrow, and the day after that, to open again the portal of my Aladdin’s cave and see who was reaching out to me from the wide world beyond. And who knows what surprises tomorrow will bring into our lives? I look forward to the adventure.
Joseph Xavier Martin