Letters from Afar

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The other day as I passed my postman on the street, smiled and said hello, I wondered if the Young Ones of the future would believe me if I told them,

“Did you know that Postal Workers used to push little blue carts full of letters up and down the streets of NYC, bringing actual, physical mail to apartment dwellers, shopkeepers, pizza-makers and bar owners? It’s true! I used to say hello to my postman when I saw him on the street!”
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The Young Ones might look at me in confusion and wonder…or else they won’t give a shit.

As one of the few people I know who uses the postal service on a regular basis, I am actually going to miss Saturday mail service. If you are a friend of mine, you can be sure you’ll receive Christmas greetings, Valentines, thank you cards and odd little gifts out of the blue. I think there’s something so sweet and reassuring about the ritual of getting and sending mail. Whenever I poke around antique stores, I rifle though stacks of vintage post cards. I think about how sending post cards used to be such an intrinsic part of a vacation. You’d select just the right cards for everyone: a scenic beach photo for your mom, a saucy bikini babe for your buddy Bill. You’d tell your friends, “Wish You Were Here” even if you really didn’t.

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But the main reason receiving and sending mail is so important to me is because both of my parents are immigrants. I only saw my Finnish grandmother once a year, and sometimes not even that often. The mail was my way of staying in contact with people I loved. And it literally brought a whole other world into my home.

At Christmastime, it was so incredible to live in sunny Hawaii and receive packages from snowy Finland. They were magical. It didn’t even really matter what was inside. It was just the idea of the package itself. Better yet, somehow the scent of Finland; a mixture of pine soap, sauna wood and cardamon would be sealed inside along with Fazer chocolate, Paulig coffee, family snapshots and tiny toys wrapped in red paper. Opening the package and smelling that scent meant the holidays had begun. It was as close as I got to spending the holidays with my family who lived so far away.

So while I still can, I’ll be the one sending you silly, brightly colored cards covered in stickers. Maybe you like them, maybe you throw them directly in the trash. Maybe you think I’m a fool. Just know that you’ll find them mixed in with your bills once in a while, because it still matters to me.

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