Thursday, September 8, 2011

My 44 cents

There was a story on the radio the other day that the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble.  They're basically out of cash, and in order to avoid a complete shutdown of service, the Postmaster General will be suggesting some changes, not the least of which is the cancellation of Saturday deliveries.

We live in a digital world now.  We communicate, pay our bills, and attend to a number of our daily needs via computer.  As a result, the amount of paper products that find their way into our mailboxes (the traditional kind nailed beside your front door, not the electronic kind) has diminished.  Well, except for the endless SAVESAVESAVE mailers -- those things drive me nuts.

I propose we pitch in and help the U.S. Postal Service, and all it will cost you is a little bit of time, and forty-four cents.

When was the last time you mailed someone an honest-to-god letter?  Or how about a card?  And not just for birthdays or Christmas, but just because it's...Wednesday.

I love cards.  I have an entire drawer of my desk filled with them.  I especially love those quotable ones -- with all the smart and sweet things said by smart and sweet people printed on the front.  But all my cards are blank on the inside.  I think cards with paragraph after paragraph of things already pre-printed  are a real bummer.  Those cards you receive with the accompanying explanation of "I bought you this card because it said exactly what I wanted to say!".  That's great -- truly -- and believe me, I am appreciative of the thought.  But it just would have been a tad nicer if it said those exactly what you wanted to say things in your own handwriting.

I know that seems petty, and I'm not trying to be.

No, really, I'm not.

I know I have in the past, but this is different.  Honestly.

Oh, shut up.  Cut me some slack, and hear me out.

I have an old wooden box that my dad gave me.  It has brass hinges, and an old brass lock, with one of those slider button things that releases the catch.  I open it up, and it becomes something of a Way-Back Machine.  There are pictures.  There's one of me with my father -- I'm tiny, couldn't be more than a year old.  There's a picture of me with my cousins, Chris and Patrick.  We're sitting at a table, mugging it up for the camera.  I have a leg of KFC chicken jammed between my teeth, and I have a beard, so I know I'm in high school.  Chris passed away a number of years ago, and to see him in the picture, grinning, arms wide and thrown over the shoulders of Patrick and I, it takes me back.  I miss him terribly.

But I also have a lot of cards.

Birthdays.  Christmas.  Of course.  Going back through the years.  From friends and family.

But some are just from random moments.  A note to say hello.  Or thank you.  Or great job.  Or I love you.  These are the ones I cherish, and not just for the words within, but for the moment in time that they seem to capture in the simple act of pen on paper.  An autumn day, with an unexpected envelope in the mail box.

I know that, for myself, when I look back on my life, of course there are the big moments that are expected to be chapter headings of memories -- graduations, birthdays.  But for whatever reason, and I admit that I am speaking simply for myself here, those memories can tend to be a little less pure, painted by the occasion, and by what we expected and hoped for them to be.

But the memories I remember most vividly are the unexpected ones.  Just a moment, a simple moment, that in the forty-one years I have lived, take me back to a time with a clarity so powerful it can be overwhelming.

A card, a letter, can do that in a way than an email never, ever will.  The feel of the paper, the familiar handwriting of a loved one.

And let's say it is from someone who is no longer with us -- to see that handwritten note, in a penmanship that we would give anything to have so much as a grocery list scrawled in -- that is magic.  They, alive and in the world, wrote that to us.

Perhaps I digress.

But for less than fifty cents, you can drop someone a line.  For honestly not that much more time than we would spend texting or emailing, slap a stamp on something and send a card to someone.  Just because.

p.s.  I've been gone for a bit.  Good chance you didn't notice, but if you did, thanks.  I've been a little busy -- spending as much time as I can with someone.  In that time, I jumped out of a plane, and fell in love.  She's amazing. And yes, I've written her a couple of times, just to let her know.