I met my husband Russell twenty-two years ago in Michigan when he was an artist in residence at Lakeside Center for the Arts, a client of my public relations business back then. He was also a professor of art at Youngstown State University, about twelve miles from the PA-Ohio state line.
He lived in a barn he had converted. On my first visit to his town, there were several wonderful surprises awaiting me, but number one on the list was a tie — no traffic and the post office. It looked like a small white house (still does) with an American flag outside, and its only identifying mark was the black zip code on the façade.
Right after meeting my future husband I began writing him letters. By phone, he mentioned that Postmaster Judy was asking him who was writing to him from Chicago with such fancy handwriting. The whole little town seemed to know about my letters before I ever got there. This is the charm of a small town post office and this is what would be amiss should all these little letter gathering places be eliminated to save a few bucks.
For people who unfortunately do not use a small post office, let me explain that this is one of the small wonders of the world left on earth. It’s sort of like the barber shop in Andy Griffith’s fictional Mayberry. Small towns have characters and character. I am not sure how many still live here in New Bedford — perhaps 500.
We are fortunate that our post office makes money. I find myself trying to contribute in any way that I can. I buy lots of stamps even if I have not run out and I am always mailing something. I enjoy making hand-made cards. Sometimes my embellishments cause the envelope to be hand cancelled. Now there is a fee for hand-cancelling – there never used to be when I moved here. Yet, I do not mind. I kind of like the idea of a hand cancelled card.
What people do not think about is the romance connected to post offices and real letters in general. I think of all the people in the military who love to get notes from home and cards that are sent to wish someone a happy birthday, anniversary or to express a note that they are sorry they lost their best furry friend. E-cards are okay, but they have no mark of a human on them. There is no ink, no smell, and most important, no handwriting. It’s electronic and it will be deleted.
I confess I am unusual. I have every letter my mother, who died at only 48 years-old, wrote to me in college. I can still see the postmarks and thus I can imagine her going into the post office to mail the letter. And in the same box are all the ones from my father who thankfully is still here, but I still love reading them from time to time.
My friend Catherine and I, who I just saw this summer for the first time in more than 20 years, have written each other since our post-college years where we met. She is an art teacher in North Carolina and she has always painted. So many of her cards and letters have little sketches or doodles she drew especially for that exact card- that went through the mail and came here to my little PO Box, waiting to be looked at with love. Sorry, but you cannot get that in an email; it’s just not the same. I have a giant box filled with her every letter, which came to me through 16140.
There are enough big box stores and pharmacies dotting the globe no matter where you travel. Small town post offices are unique and make a town different from the others. It’s a place where you get a little chit chat while mailing your bills or a note to a friend. There is a personality connected to it that I do not want to see disappear across America. The Post Office is one thing the government has actually created that is fabulous. How can these bureaucrats think a few less post offices will solve America’s financial problems? That is simply pathetic thinking.
I have a rubber stamp I use a lot. It says: The mailbox is a museum. Yes it is! It can be filled with many surprises and I think people need to appreciate the charm of small post offices more in the sense of what they represent. It’s not just a place where you send your bills to be paid. I love my daily trip to the post office. I told my husband more than once if they ever get rid of our post office I am moving since we already lost our bank and gas station.
I am off to the post now in fact, I need to pick up my mail and I have to see how Postmaster Lenny’s sweet old dog is doing. She was at the vet the other day with a thyroid problem. Of course I would never know that unless I got my mail at a small town post office.