My first experience with the U.S. mail service included Bazooka Joe gum wrappers. Besides the delightful cartoon, you had the opportunity to order the most magnificent (but almost immediately disposable) plastic items from the company. Cameras that no film would fit into. Key chains that hooked only to belt buckles because I was 6 years old — I didn’t have keys to anything. The items didn’t really matter. It was the anticipation of receiving something. Watching for the mail carrier to slow down. Then stop. In front of the line of mailboxes. Did he open ours? I think that was Weiss’s box. No, maybe it was ours. Day after day. Impossibly early, I waited for the delivery. Legs and arms browning in the summer sun. Waiting. Then it happened. He lowered the door. Our door. Our name faced the ground. He placed the tiny brown box inside. Shut the tiny door. And pulled away. Before the dust settled from his rear tires, my hand was on the mailbox. My name was on the package. My name. I was something. Someone. Part of this exchange. Part of this world. I held the package to my heart. I belonged.
I saw a recent video. They showed pictures of mailboxes to young children. They had no idea what they were looking at. They explained the mail exchange. They seemed unimpressed. But they neglected to tell the real story. It wasn’t just a delivery system. It was neighborhoods. And gravel roads. And trust. And anticipation. And summer. And connection.
I suppose that’s why I write. Why I paint. To keep the stories alive. To get you to slow down as you pass by. Maybe even stop. Connect.
To belong — it may be the key to everything.