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Ordinary Life-Postal Cheer
12/2/2008 - Jan  Bridgeford-Smith

Some people like to contemplate a nativity, or a wreath, or poinsettia to gain a little holiday inspiration, but not me. I like the post office.


“Goodness,” you may exclaim were you sitting next to me, “how pathetic. You poor dear you must have very few hobbies.  Obviously you don’t travel. Did I ever tell you about the priceless crown jewels my Aunt Nilda lost thanks to the US Postal Service?”


“Nonsense,” I reply.  “I have never had a thing disappear from the postal service.  Just last week I got a holiday card from 1988 delivered to my door. How many other services can claim that type of determined spirit to carry out their mission? And yes, my hobbies are few but my imagination grand.”


I’m kidding. I’ve always had wonderfully good service in postal terms. But it’s not the technical wizardry of handling millions of letters and parcels that draws me to this spot of holiday joy.  When I step through the doors of the historic gem that is my village post office, time reverses—I’m in a Currier and Ives living print, a spot that radiates a slower pace, a premium on public services.


Walking through the wooden doors with large glass panes and brass pulls, I get a visual thrill. The terrazzo floors, white marble trim and baseboards, and walls covered in beautiful, deep honey-colored, oak paneling, speak of a time, 1913 to be exact, when even small, federal buildings were considered worthy of beautiful detail. 


In the lobby area, three walls are covered with those little post boxes that sport dark metal and brass doors with knobs.  They look like miniature safe-deposit boxes, waiting expectantly for their owners to come and haul out their hidden treasures. In the customer service area, the great paneled wall, with gold lettering announces “stamps and packages” above four “window” areas.  Parcels, envelopes and an array of other postal “products” are dispensed to the public across the wooden counter—no bars or plexi-glass—eyeball to eyeball with the customer.


This afternoon, the post office was playing Bing Crosby’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.  After a cheery, “May I help you?” I got Bette Davis stamps and a “Happy Holidays. Remember to mail early. Next.”  Every window customer got the same bright greeting and good-bye as if it was a delight to have people stop by for the mundane items many now order by computer.


The special Christmas and holiday wrappings, package mailers, cards, stationery and sundry other “gifts” were on full display. Maybe I’ll do all my gift buying at the post office this year—shop and drop in one easy location.  Why not? It’s one of the few places I feel inspired to spend some money.


“Puh,” you say, “what folderol is this about the power of a post office to spread holiday joy? Shallow, very shallow.”


“Ahh,” I croon, “think about this. For one hundred years this tiny little outpost of government service and democracy and public art beauty, has carried the cards and packages of countless thousands, delivering the joy, sometimes the sadness, every holiday promises-connecting families, and lovers, and friends.”


With great excitement I add, “What better place to wrap-up in memories of wonderful pleasures when you opened that unexpected package from Aunt Tillie or the holiday card from your junior high girlfriend you thought was living on Maui but now you learn is down the road in Des Moines living a life much like yours.”  


And if my cogent observations weren’t enough to convince you of the sacredness of the post office at this time of year, consider-- I left this afternoon with two flat rate mailing boxes, four flat-rate envelopes, ten minutes of beautiful interior, a smiling employee cheerfully offering service for my teeny little order of stamps and the Crosby tune on my lips--all for free! Joy to the world!  

11 Comments From Other Members
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12/2/2008 Mary Allan Mill from St. Petersburg FL wrote:
We have a classic post office in downtown St. Petersburg, so I know the feeling. Unfortunately, it's in the heart of "homeless" center and it's difficult to park. In the small village in which I lived in England we had a "postmistress" who basically had the post office in her "front parlor" and lived behind with her tea kettle whistling away... No Crosby.
12/2/2008 Haralee Weintraub from Portland Or wrote:
We have our business 1 mile from our post office and go there at least once a day. While that is not my regular job, I still go often enough that they know me by name and I can comfortably chat with the window clerks. It is all very pleasant. In my book club are several postal employees and that has been a revelation to me on how well they know the people on their route. All I can say is make friends with your mail carrier, they know more about you than most of your family with-out having to say a word,so why not become friends!
12/2/2008 Bev Sykes from Davis CA wrote:
I don't know that I can share your enthusiasm for the post office at holiday time. In our local post office, there is no music and there is often a line which may stretch so far that you stand in line for half an hour. But I usually only have one big package to mail--and I managed to get that done right after Thanksgiving, so I'm a happy camper!
12/2/2008 Bev Sykes from Davis CA wrote:
(also, my father was a mailman and from December 1 to 31, all we heard every night were complaints, anger, and grousing about how much he hated Christmas.)
12/2/2008 Peggy Hill from Pittsburgh PA wrote:
Jan, that was a lovely picture, thank you. My father was a mailman for many years and he loved Christmas. It meant he had to make two trips a day - but bring packages that held Christmas presents always made his feel good. Any he somtimes received home baked gifts to bring home to the family, that was always great - cookies for us and homemade wine for him. I don't think many people do that anymore. I agree with Haralee - they do know more about your life than your family. He also knew when it was time to sell the house and move to a different neighborhood. Thanks for the memories.
12/2/2008 Sue Ann Crockett from Ferndale WA wrote:
Jan.. I was THERE with you! Your descriptions made it easy to be present. This was just lovely... thanks for your vision.
12/3/2008 Susan Terbay from Dayton OH wrote:
Jan - I love your post office! Can't say I love my post office but if I need to be reminded of such a wonderful memory of yours - I'll just read your blog again! Beautiful- I so love your writing!
12/3/2008 Jan Bridgeford-Smith from Newark NY wrote:
Folks-I know the post offices in many places are not at all as I describe but in this little village, it is exactly as I wrote--only better-a little charmer set in the midst of too much urban renewal-a reminder of grander times and visions when the canal was bustling and possibility was everywhere--some days I'm a hopeless romantic--sigh
12/3/2008 J Peak from Plymouth MI wrote:
Post Offices are great places, even waiting in line. I love watching people and I tend to make-up or guess their stories, especially about the packages they're in line to send. It's such a grand mixture of ethnic groups in our post office....it provides interesting thoughts about how the world is represented in this one, little building.
12/3/2008 Michele Moore from New Port Richey FL wrote:
And knowing the locale from whence you write, I too know that there are still places where a romantic-at-heart is not disappointed when she looks for nourishment for the soul. As always, Jan, your skill as a wordsmith paints the loveliest pictures.
12/9/2008 Dorothy Sander from Durham NC wrote:
I enjoyed reading this blog and its responses. It is like a microcosm of our worlds - we can see into each other's lives, just a little, through their post offices! How cool is that! My post office is only a couple of miles away. The building is newish - no charm there - but it is seldom busy and the people who work there have become our friends. I always enjoy chatting with them and look forward to going because of it. They are always cheerful and know everyone who comes in. This is always a pleasant surprise to me who spent many miserable moments in line when I lived in New York.

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