you’ve got mail by Bri Howerton
My relationship with the United States Postal Service has been a tumultuous one. A new piece of mail in my box nearly every day not actually addressed to me, ever increasing postage prices, medical bills which arrive beyond their due date. The most egregious offense, though, was the failure of a “stop package” order put in by my aunt when I first moved to Great Falls. The package had been labeled with an incorrect address, so she shelled out the fee to have it held at the post office. The package wasn’t stopped, whisked away to its unintended home. Multiple attempts to contact the recipient were unsuccessful, and after receiving some threatening notes I figured it was time to cut my losses. I wouldn’t usually be so concerned about a package. I am perfectly okay with parting with trinkets and souvenirs and consistently clearing out half my closet when the purge bug bites me (only to wonder months later “whatever happened to that skirt i liked???” girl – you happened, then Goodwill happened). But this package was different. It contained something priceless to me – a quilt made by my aunt which enshrined my late grandma’s prized possessions, her Alabama football t-shirts. I don’t care about football, and I wasn’t suffering from a lack of quilts, but I wanted to luxuriate in the hours of work my aunt had put into the piece. I wanted to feel the cotton my grandma had worn in perfectly and smell the faint scent of her menthol cigarettes that would never wash out completely.
I really can’t blame the recipient of the package – the lassies in my family have passed quilting skills down and around, perfecting the utilitarian art form. Their pieces are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, durable and intricate and beautiful with love that soaks into the skin when it escapes from the stitching. I hope they cherish the quilt how it should be cherished, but I also hope they know some tools to ward off hauntings in case the spirit of my hot headed grandma entered their home with her t-shirts.
Despite our hardships, I just keep crawling back to the post office. She’s a place of cool tile serenity, a lifeline to the people who are far away. Sending and receiving letters is a literal highlight of my life, and throughout service it has provided me with warmth and a way to fill my free time with intention. The entire process is joyful:
– choosing stationary
– using a pen with silky ink
– making inquiries, lil drawings, errors
– sending a collage, some oats, a good tube of chapstick
– affixing a stamp, drawing on an envelope, writing the address that won’t be mine for much longer
-going to the blue steel mailbox, sending to an address I’ve never been
-receiving with anticipation worries, plans, pictures of a pal in a religious order sledding in her habit, tins of curry paste, a collage
The process is sustaining and cyclical with no end date and the ability to accompany. It closes the distance between me n you n you n you.