Today the USPS announced it will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays beginning in August. The move will save the failing company two billion dollars a year as they struggle to keep up with today’s digital world of email, online shopping and electronic bills.
In my little New Jersey town, we began seeing the signs a couple years ago: Deliveries each day growing lighter and lighter. Some days the dog and I don’t even hear the tell-tale thump of mail hitting my foyer floor. And then there was the postcard last summer telling us that our beloved postman, Andy, would no longer be our mailman. We were on a first-name basis with Andy, and he was always trying to win over my little Napolean watchdog. Witness to many highs and lows in our lives over the past seven years, he gently offered condolences when he noticed the influx of sympathy cards and gift baskets he was helping to deliver.
For my generation and all those that came before, getting mail was an event in and of itself. It was such an anticipated occurrence, in fact, that my brother and I used to play “Mail” on rainy days. We’d spend a good hour creating the perfect mailbox for ourselves, decorating old shoeboxes with bright markers and maybe a few shiny flakes of glitter. Then we’d head off to our separate bedrooms to write our “mail” in secret, before sneaking back to the other’s mailbox and depositing our treasures inside.
My kids will never know the sweet thrill of anticipation waiting for mail to arrive. Nor will they ever eagerly volunteer to run down to the end of the driveway to gather the day’s greetings. My daughter will never fill shoeboxes with sappy lovesick cards from boyfriends far away.
It makes me sad.
I treasure physical memories and take great comfort in surrounding myself with these sweet, poignant reminders of the way life used to be. It’s the best kind of security blanket, one that can’t be replicated with a cold abbreviated email or text.
I wonder how my kids and theirs will be able to wrap themselves in nostalgia on a chilly Sunday morning. But then again, nothing lasts forever. Cards and letters become yellow and torn. They burn and fly away to land as dusty freckles upon some other facade, oblivious to their prior stature. Or maybe they wash away in a hurricane, their inky tributes becoming blurry stripes of indecipherable sentiment.
Does it mean our emotional archives will now only exist on a thumb drive or in the “cloud” somewhere? Maybe it doesn’t matter, as long as they are inside us. And the only way to pass them from one inside to the other is through stories… the most traditional way of recording history!
So tonight at dinner, ask the kids to put down the phones because you’re going to tell them a story about mailboxes and love letters (with maybe a few 8 tracks and typewriters thrown in for fun).