Post marked stamps

The vehicle looks like a pygmy ice cream truck, the doors opening the wrong way, the driver sitting as if he had fallen out of a Monty Python skit. The shorts are ridiculous, the black shoes and socks even worse. But to see him walking down my front walk is to feel the pangs of excitement, the promise of what could be. Open optimism, the glass not half full, but overflowing and pouring into a safety reservoir for later use.

The mail is coming. And I’m excited.

Always. Without fail. I view the coming of the mail the same way some wait for the morning newspaper, like some wait for the weather report, how others continue listening to the radio in order to hear the Twins score, with anticipation and promise.

This isn’t an “old man watching the ag report” phenomenon. This is a testament to the open possibilities of what could come in the mail, the same kind of tug that draws some to cliff jump or hike the Boundary Waters or travel to the Amazon. Except a lot more simple. And a lot safer.

The best part is, I know I’m not alone.

For most of us, it starts when we order something as a kid. The torture of waiting for something in the mail tears at us, as it did to Ralphie in A Christmas Story as he waited for his Ovaltine decoder ring. In college, it becomes a part of your day. Walking to the mailbox to see what stuff you get – letters from long-distance partners, checks from parents, packages from some midnight drunk shopping spree – is nearly equal to an early dinner at the commons in terms of importance and procrastination.

And then, you grow up. Your mail becomes more varied. More people ask for money, some give you money, others offer you riches unimagined. Cards from family members you can barley remember, orders you forgot you’d paid for. Every pile is a new adventure, a reconnecting with the outside world, a period of discovery that once connected us like no other, before the days of e-mail and its instant gratification and ease. Some of it’s utter shit. But equally, some of it is surprising. Exciting.

I must have an old soul, because I still long for the brief connection of the mail.

Magazines and other periodicals. Shipments. Birthday cards. Newsletters. Bills. I anticipate what could be coming each day. It’s the first thing I do when I stop home for lunch, and my hour seems derailed if the mail hasn’t arrived. I order enough things over the Internet to have perfected the longing need for mail delivery. When will my camera get here? Why hasn’t that book arrived? Shouldn’t my magazine come this month, or is it the November/December combined holiday issue?

And then it arrives. I look it over, skim through the stuff I have no interest in, and toss it on the pile. Just like that, it’s over.

But for a few brief minutes, from the anticipation and realization of mail delivery to holding those assorted items in your hands, anything is possible.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 17th, 2008