“That was the first time I got a letter in my mailbox,” said the man who had called me, his voice full of wonder and excitement. He was one of the adult learners in the literacy program where I worked, and I had sent the letter to congratulate him on passing the GED.
How sad, I thought, that this 29-year old man had never before received a letter. Even the way he expressed it sounded foreign to me—“I got a letter in my mailbox.” I would have said, “I got a letter in the mail.”
I thought of all the times I had reached into the mailbox and pulled out a card or letter, the joy in reading a friend’s news and that sense of connection.
The first personal mail I remember receiving was in the summer after second grade. A classmate, practicing her newly-acquired writing skills, sent me a post card when she was at her family’s cottage. Every summer after that, she continued the practice of sending me post cards.
I remember waiting for the mailman to arrive on summer days, anticipating my post card, the thrill of seeing something with my name written on it.
I was hooked; letter-writing became a part of my life, and even in this age of electronic communication, I still love to write and receive letters.
The other day I received two notes in the mail. One was a thank-you note from my niece for her birthday gift. The other was a mystery. The name in the return address was unfamiliar and piqued my interest.
It was from a woman I had met last week. A minivan was creeping along the street and stopped in front of my house just I was leaving with the dog for our afternoon walk. I approached, thinking they may need directions.
The driver explained that she had grown up in my house and she was bringing her mother on a “trip down memory lane.” Her mother related that she and her husband had moved into my house when they got married in 1957.
I shared what I knew of the neighbors—some of them had grown up on this street and are living in their parents’ homes—and I invited them in to see my home.
“Oh, no, we couldn’t do that,” said the daughter. I pleaded with them to come inside, thinking of how much I would love to go into my childhood home. They declined.
“Any time you want to come in,” I said, “please just let me know.”
Her note expressed their “good luck and good timing” that I was walking the dog when they were driving down the street and their gratitude for the updates on the neighbors.
Now that I have her address, I will write and invite her and her mother to come for a visit. I can almost imagine her delight at retrieving my note from her mailbox.