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Year’s Last Gift

Check was in the mail

Check was in the mail

Mail brings a check. Media loudmouths trumpet the incipient demise of the physical mail. I hope not. The mail brings presents sometimes still.

I don’t know what it’s for or why it came. It has something to do with the house, but can’t be escrow or something from the county. I don’t know where it came from or what the Loan In Process Account does. But I will never look askance at eighteen bucks and change.

The post office had it out for it, the dog winning over the mailman, or at least I imagine that’s a shoeprint on the mangled edge. Perhaps some disgruntled worker, pension raided and staffing cuts forcing longer hours with no pay bump, threw a shoe in the machine to slow it down. It comes in a plastic bag Scotch-taped shut and printed with an elaborate and effusive message of shame and forgiveness. The post office takes its job seriously and is very sorry. They do their utmost all the time, except this time. They are sorry to have let me down.

Post Office, it’s all right. I have been friends with you since the Seventies, when I taped 35¢ to an index card and mailed it off for an Estes model rocket catalog, back when the funky Zoom on PBS asked you to send them a SASE. All those cool addresses: New York, Boston, Washington DC. Standing in front of the mailbox with my letter I would put it in with excitement, the six to eight weeks of wait unimaginable. That’s so long! Then later, placing the envelope containing the withdrawal slip for money for my first computer, realizing that Merrifiend, Virginia–home of Navy Federal Credit Union–is a real place, in space and time, and my piece of paper, filled out on my desk in Burleson, Texas, will soon be across the country. Other planets are places, Carl Sagan said. You can go there.

Now things rarely come or go. So for us all. I open the little metal door and the space is empty, nine times out of ten. Not even the Tuesday second-class coupon pack makes an appearance. Now every little thing that comes is a gift, even if it’s junk. Instead of junk email, junk mail is real, tactile, smooth to the touch. Many more hands took care to design the piece, print, fold, mail, deliver it. We forget what a miracle is dependable daily mail, at our peril, I think. In some key ways I think the future will more resemble a slower past as the great behemoth we have built becomes too heavy to push.

I am grateful for little things that bring a little pleasure that expands. Holding this check is a surprise, a release, an appreciation, and closure. It is a sigh, the story’s perfect ending sentence.

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