Pop and Grandma owned P. O. Box 23 in their hometown and retrieving the mail required descending the long hill to visit the post office. Pop owned a business and once a month the tiny box overflowed with customer receipts. As I watched him open envelope after envelope and stack the money I figured he was about the richest man I knew. Some days the box held letters from sons fighting a war on the other side of the planet, and Grandma tried to hide the tears as she read those precious words. I marveled at the power of the U.S. Mail, and experienced the anticipation generated by each day’s delivery.
Angel Fork, the single thread of asphalt that followed the creek to our tiny neighborhood, passed through several openings in the dense foliage. With our finely-tuned hearing we could tell who was coming long before we caught a glimpse of the vehicle. The visual confirmation was a safety-check. If Woody’s Chevy (my Dad) was rolling into the valley we had to be home, washed, and ready for supper before he arrived.
Our dirt road, Main Drive, dead-ended at Angel Fork’s black-top across from a long row of mailboxes. Every house was represented in that lineup. Some chose a silver box, others opted for black, and one had no door. Other than the party-line telephone, the U.S. Mail was our connection to the outside world, and checking the box was a big deal.
The mail carrier’s brown Buick with its rust-perforated body played its own symphony as he stopped at a residence ½ mile away then revved the engine up the small incline and reached cruising speed in the quarter-mile strait-a-away before the intersection of Main Drive. Missing a glimpse of his vehicle was no big deal. His brakes squealed a resounding “howdy” as he dropped two wheels off the asphalt and angled close to the row of mailboxes. We were taught that messing with the mail was a serious offense, so we waited a safe distance away until he completed his sort and moved on to the next settlement.
Oh, the joy of opening that box and finding solid gold —a new catalog to page through as we dreamed about all the things we would one day own. J. C. Penney sent us their full-color toy catalog previewing the must-have items for any kid in touch with trends. My brothers drooled with me as we negotiated, “If you ask Santa for this, I’ll ask for that. We can share.”
Johnson Smith Company shared a black and white catalog filled with devices we never imagined. Getting on someone’s mailing list required a stamp and a simple letter. Share your name and address, and in six to eight weeks the mailman would deliver the payoff. We learned about x-ray specs, sea monkeys, and tons of dollar bargains.
We pored over Atlas Model Train catalogs and Lionel’s Model Railroading publications. Hour after hour we planned, compiled lists of trains to buy, and designed model cities with water features, working drawbridges, and tiny homes where plastic people might live in harmony. We knew if our layout was good enough people would pay admission to watch the action, and our train habit might become self-funding. At least that was our plan.
Someone discovered Estes Model Rockets and their catalogs opened the door to the realm of space travel. Heathkit’s catalog offered easy-to-assemble electronic kits, and another of our lists specified the order in which we would acquire the components for our very own Mission Control. American Science and Surplus carried wire, parts, lenses, lights, and a host of raw materials for our inventions.
The simple days of childhood disappeared long ago, but I still enjoy checking the mail even though today’s gleanings are not in the same strata as a model train catalog. Yesterday I found an embossed envelope that felt expensive. No clue on the outside, not even a return address, gave away its secrets. I carefully extracted the contents to find a dinner invitation from a local funeral home. In exchange for my attendance they would educate me on post-life options. Their gala was given the catchy title, “Pre-Planning Seminar”.
Well, do tell. I guess the final scene and curtain drop eventually overtake us. Not one of us has a tally on the days left on our countdown timer. Life is short as Scripture teaches.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NLT
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
James 4:14 NLT
The weighty-burdens of adulthood have a way of crushing the whimsy out of us. Junk mail, political fodder, charitable solicitations, and an endless stream of bills push child-like enjoyment of life aside. Instead of excitement at the mailbox we may feel a sense of foreboding.
Stop. Look up. The clouds are floating by with all their glorious shapes. Take some time to stretch out, watch the heavenly parade, and day-dream. It’s OK. Go ahead. Enjoy.
Hey, I just found my Whoopee Cushion…