I wish my trove of memorabilia included a picture of our old mailbox, because I remember how fast my bare feet could take me there in the summertime.

Especially on Fridays when My Weekly Reader arrived.

My current mailbox. I grew up with a metal one on a wooden post.

My current mailbox. My childhood one was metal and nailed to a wooden post.

I also loved to get cards, postcards, and letters. I would pore over the pictures, notice the handwriting, and imagine myself in faraway places. I would dream. I tried being a Words of Cheer pen pal but got discouraged when I got no response.

I’m still a dreamer. And a note writer.

Friends and family hear from me most, but sometimes I write to authors I admire. Or to politicians.

The politicians always “write” back. But when an author writes, in her own hand, a precious note of encouragement. . . .

That’s a day for jubilation!

Isabel Allende's notecard depicting Chile

Isabel Allende’s note card depicting Chile

On that day, I am six years old again.

My toes covered in dust by the side of the road, I reach into the box and pull out an envelope I don’t recognize.

Until I see the name.

What kind of mailbox do you have? Did you have in your youth? Have any memory treasures to share?

Shirley Showalter

12 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan on July 15, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Shirley — I love the speed you conveyed with your dusty bare feet zooming to the mailbox. More so, I love that you’re still a dreamer. And a note writer.

    Because we live in a carriage house and it doesn’t have a mailbox, we have a post office box. After pulling out mail, it’s fun to look through the hollow, shadowy rectangle into the bowels of the sorting area. You’d be amazed at what you see!

    • shirleyhs on July 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Speaking of speed, Laurie, thanks for hopping right on to this new post.

      I remember having mailboxes in college that had those kinds of mysterious portals into the netherworld of the post office itself. Love your words: “the hollow, shadowy rectangle into the bowels of the sorting area.” People do funny things when they don’t know they are being observed.

  2. Marian Beaman on July 15, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    The mailbox on Anchor Road was the prettiest on the street because Aunt Ruthie painted Ray M. Longenecker in strong script letters on the silvery side. It appears in some of her home movies I think. Mother put up the red flag when there was a letter to mail.

    Like you, I enjoyed Words of Cheer and My Weekly Reader, which we got at school. I remember smelling the glossy pages with fresh ink and one time seeing a photo and description of Roberta Peters, the opera singer. I don’t recall that I dreamed of dressing like her one day, but I know I admired her beautiful hair and makeup.

    How grand to have a note from Isabel Allende. What a treasure, Shirley! Eva Luna is on my bookshelf, and I believe I may have read House of the Spirits too.

    • shirleyhs on July 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Your memory of the treasures in the mail made me smile, Marian. Especially the specific picture of Roberta Peters, she of fascinating hair, makeup, and elegant dress — just like yours became. That was one function of My Weekly Reader. It brought the arts into little rural enclaves. By the way, click on the link and learn that My Weekly Reader has been forced out of print because teachers no longer have time to do a current events segment in the week. Too busy not leaving any child behind.

      I guess it’s a miracle we didn’t get left behind. Right?

  3. shirleyhs on July 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Speaking of speed, Laurie, thanks for hopping right on to this new post.

    I remember having mailboxes in college that had those kinds of mysterious portals into the netherworld of the post office itself. Love your words: “the hollow, shadowy rectangle into the bowels of the sorting area.” People do funny things when they don’t know they are being observed.

  4. Merril Smith on July 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    How exciting to have received a card–and such a lovely one– from Isabel Allende. I have a letter that my dad received from Tony Hillerman.

    I love your description–“toes covered in dust” as you reach for the mail. I still get excited each day when I reach for the mail (our box is next to our front door). It’s usually bills and junk mail, but even so, I always hope for something else. 🙂
    I remember, too, in college–long before e-mail and cell phones–getting mail was a highpoint of any day.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Sorry it took so long for me to acknowledge this comment, Merril, but I still appreciate it! Carolyn See once advised writers to write real mail to their favorite authors, thanking them. I did that several times. May Sarton wrote back also. Big thrill.

      Hope you get a great letter soon. In the mailbox!

  5. Elaine Mansfield on July 19, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Isabel Allende. It’s a thrill just to think of it.

    My family mail box was attached to the house next to the front door since we lived in town and mail was delivered on foot. Now I have a rural mail carrier, but most of my most interesting correspondence comes in email.

    That wasn’t true of my favorite letter writer and woman teacher, Marion Woodman. I went to many of her workshops, but there were long periods when I didn’t see her. During those years, we corresponded by mail–with growing frequency. I didn’t bombard her with mail and always sent interesting dreams or stories, images or cards. When Vic was ill, Marion and talked about spirituality and psychology as we always had, but also about the path of marriage and the inevitable loss that follows love. I was thrilled when I saw her handwriting on an envelop in my mailbox. Around 2011 her writing became more wobbly and her words less coherent. Soon after, her letters stopped and she stopped teaching. I heard she was not well. I still have every letter safely on my altar where I read them when I need her support.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Just discovered I never replied to this heart-felt message, Elaine. Sorry to take so long.

      The letters you got from Marion, still sitting on your altar, leave a lovely impression in my mind. I have 1966-70 correspondence with my mother and with Stuart stored in the library, waiting for me to re-read them and decide what to do with them. But there is some comfort in just knowing they are there, waiting their turn.

  6. Kathleen Friesen on January 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    I discovered this through the magic of links. I still love getting physical mail, especially in an age when even Christmas greetings are commonly emailed or simply posted on Facebook. Thank you for sharing the excitement of receiving this card and the lovely image!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 21, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks for locating the magic of links, Kathleen. Isn’t the card beautiful? I love old fashioned letters too. Hope you get some lovely mail soon. The real kind!

  7. […] Imagine my excitement when she wrote back to me! […]

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