Sunday, February 27, 2011

Please Mr. Postman, Look and See ...

by Zinta Aistars

Please Mr. Postman, look and see
Oh, yeah
If there's a letter in your bag for me
Please please Mr. Postman
You know it's been a long time ...
                       (lyrics from Beatles' "Mr. Postman")

A letter? In my mailbox, really? From actual person to actual person?

My usual reach for various junk instead pulls an envelope from my mailbox, a stamped envelope with carefully handwritten addresses in upper corner and center. I am immediately at attention, instantly smiling, and trotting a little faster back up the drive to the house, so that I can sit and read.

My son has written me a letter. And even before I have opened it, I know it's good. He has scrawled a tiny smiley face on the back with a bubble coming from its mouth: HI!

What inspires him to write? What thoughts ramble in his head and heart that he wishes to share? I prolong the moment of anticipation, first preparing, pouring, steeping a cup of steaming tea. Only then do I arrange myself in my favorite reading corner in the living room, there in the corner under the pendant lights hanging low, under that warm and golden glow.

It is not as if we haven't talked. He calls from time to time, from time to time we share a meal, catch up, or even sit in silent companionship, sharing space and time. Yet sometimes one wants to put pen to paper.

Or do we? Anymore? Long for a letter rather than a telephone call? Rather than a cryptic, shorthand text of LOLs and u r and BRB and whatever that code has evolved to mean ... when I indulge, I still write in complete words and complete sentences. I refuse to amputate language.

Old fashioned, perhaps, but more, I respect the tool of my own art: words. Language. The written word, and how it conveys something of ourselves across that time and distance like nothing else can. Every mode of communication has its own spirit, has its own particular manner of connecting one human heart to another human heart, one electric current of human mind churning out thought to another.

I hold this letter in my hands, weigh its delicate weight in my open palms, like treasure. And it is. Alighted in my hands like a fragile butterfly, and I am just as anxious that it not suddenly vanish. He may have written nothing more than hey, how are ya? I'm fine, or almost, under the circumstances, and maybe not so fine, but I wanted to tell you ...

The call is over. The text is deleted. The e-mail is obliterated into the Ethernet. The letter remains.

I feel a sense of momentary grief for The Letter. How will future generations learn our hearts? Hasn't much of history been preserved in the exchange of letters? Letters announcing momentous occasions, births, graduations, confirmations, baptisms, engagements, weddings, deaths. Letters threading a new-found love across distance, back and forth, sewing two souls together; letters connecting friends, exposing the heart as little else can, shared thoughts weaving a tapestry of connecting threads.

I remember how letters once arrived in my mailbox, how they made the day, how their absence left the day barren. Love letters, oh love letters, that trot to the mailbox, heart hammering, will it be there? will it or won't it? will today be a gift? does he think of me still? has he received mine?

I remember the envelopes bordered by blue and red slashes to indicate Air Mail. Those excited most of all. Right away, I could see that a long journey had been made, envisioned the envelope among a thousand others in the belly of the plane, flying over miles and miles and miles of ocean. Opening the envelope with utmost caution, slipping the blade of the letter opener into a corner and slicing neatly across its edge, the cut made, and inside those thin and crinkly pages, almost like the thin wafers a priest placed on the tongue at communion and in a moment melting away as if they'd never been ... and then reading, reading, recognizing the handwriting, the personality of the letter writer distinctly appearing in the shape and form of the letters themselves. The sharp and pointed, the rounded and leaning, the jabbing, the lines that flew upwards or sank gradually down, all communicated their own message.

Even the stamps on the letters were tiny works of art, telling a story as well. Scenes from the originating state or country, flora and fauna, objects d'art, tiny landscapes and seascapes, automobiles and ships, faces of leaders. Every envelope was one more work in a museum, an ongoing documentary, telling more, more if one wished to know more.

I opened my letter. I just wanted to take time to shoot a letter to you today ... I've been thinking about my life ... 

I sip my tea and read, and read it again, all of it, salutation to final Love, Your Son.

I read it again.

I've learned something more about my boy grown to man. I am honored at this sharing of a few random thoughts, and am suddenly eager to return my own. Where is my letter paper? Perhaps a greeting card ...

I will write to him about something I saw today on my commute home from work. How the melting ice on the trees of the ice storm drips like thick honey. How the new snow has frosted everything like confectioner's sugar, and that I never tire of it, this cold white beauty. How I miss him. How I look forward to our next shared meal. To seeing his beautiful face at my door. A mother never tires of those faces, the faces of her children, ever ever, each time a world wonder, each time a moment of magic, the heart blooming open in something so sweet it nearly hurts.

I will write to him about how the dog lies next to the door, waiting.

I will write, nonsense even, about weather and news and work tidbits and family gossip. It doesn't matter. I will attach the stamp in the corner and trace the letters of the address, shape the letters of his name, and maybe I will even draw a little face on the back, with one quick stroke smiling, and a bubble emerging from its tiny mouth: HI!

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