The mailman came twice a day, the first delivery was around 9 a.m.; the second at 2 p.m. We received letters mostly, from the family in Lebanon or Ohio--each differentiated by the weight of the envelopes. From the "old country" came the tissue paper light envelopes we could see the arabic writing through; our cousins from Cleveland or Youngstown sent hearty flower cards . The mail was thrilling and when we heard the footsteps on the porch, the four kids living at home rushed to the door. We children never received any mail and we not actually permitted to touch it, but the mystique of having things come right to the house felt like a gift or maybe an honor.
We felt this way about all deliveries, repairmen, solicitors and visitors. The ringing doorbell, the arrival of the known or unknown captivated us. The bell of the scissor sharpener conjured a hope that mother’s parsley chopping knife had dulled to distraction and she would send one of us to Main Street to stop him. The sharpener wheeled his vehicle to our grey floored porch and stood until mother handed him the big knives, the ones saved for the most important Lebanese food. As he cycled and gently touched the wheel with the side of the blade, his ragged jacket blew behind him. His face was sun-rich brown and he was wrinkled like wind-fall pears we never picked up. I don’t remember his speaking, ever, not getting any older, or cleaner. Every time he traversed Main Street, he looked exactly the same. We couldn’t count on the scissor man or Steve, the ditch digger who cleaned our sewer but the mailman in legendary glory came everyday twice a day. When I was in sixth grade I had hopes of being a mailman (sic for the times). A walk through town everyday, the chatting with neighbors; delivering something most people were looking forward to enchanted me as the perfect job. Or being a jazz singer, like Ella Fitzgerald. Very conflicted—both jobs deliver a lot.
My anticipation of home delivery, my enthusiasm for the package, bottles of water or Office Depot catalogue continues to this day. But now I get my mail at a paid-for box in another neighborhood, I rarely answer the doorbell, unless I’m expecting someone. I grumble at the rap on the door, bury myself deeper in the couch rather than answering; when the phone rings, I lift my head and check the ID and note if it’s worth the effort; then turtle back into my work, mentally promising to return the call.Yet, when the Arrowhead delivery greets me on the stoop, or when the newspaper is under the front bush where I can barely get it on my hands and knees, I am sweetly satisfied. The Office Depot boxes with reams of paper and ink for the printer are Christmas all over; Tuesday’s adverts from Long’s provide a quick browse of the price of creamers I will never buy.
I love boxes and packages and large refillable water jugs. I smile at UPS drivers and wiggle my fingers at the postal carrier. I greet every person who passes on their morning walks and pat all the friendly dogs violating my small tree out front.
Truth is, I’m still in love with the things that remind me of growing up in a small town, although I detest small towns and never really felt welcome in the either of them where my family lived. The acts of home delivery seem the most generous part of them. You will get your mail no matter who you are or what people think of you. That encounter will happen. It is often the postal carriers who first notice if someone is in trouble, hasn’t come out of their house for days , or hasn’t been heard from.
Recently at the Chicago Hilton, a package was sent to me. I got a call from the desk that my parcel was waiting for me. I dashed (yes in that old-fashioned way) to the elevator and presented myself to the first lovely service person at the registration desk.
“I have a package.”
She smiled, “I’ll be happy to help you. What room?”
“908,” I leaned forward, almost peeking behind her station. She routed around in the lower shelves and pulled out a FED EX envelope. That’s it! I was relieved.
“Your name?” She held it at an arm’s length, but away from me.
The woman smiled again and presented it to me. “That will be $8.00, shall I charge it to your room?”
“Eight dollars to pick up my mail?”
“yes, shall I charge it to your room?”
The envelope went limp in my hand as I nodded. Don’t kill the messenger, I reminded myself.
And I remembered, I am paying, everyday, to collect mail from the nice man who runs the UPS store where he keeps it tucked neatly in my box until I drag myself in to pick it up. It’s a necessary evil for many reasons to have a box and I am businesslike when i take my stack home and sort the envelopes on the dining room table. Mostly bills these days; all the most personal messages come via email. The rare card or book have incredible value, beauty and my appreciation.
Still, I yearn for the daily surprise of home delivered mail, packages, and old men ready to sharpen my knives. Even while i have become an at-home working hermit, I like to imagine my street strung with people making the occassional encounter over a package, a bouquet of delivered flowers, dry cleaning brought on hangers; a box of cookies from Aunt Sybil. When those days return, I might answer my door.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports