by Mitch Lee
It was mid-January 1977 and my birthday was just a week or so away. Each year I would get cards from relatives who lived two or more hours from our Limekiln Lake home.
These cards arrived by mail to our Inlet Post Office.
I did not get many chances to visit the post office when I was a boy.
It seemed my parents would go when I was in school or when they ran errands.
And if I were in the car on one of those occasions it was always the same story.
“Sit tight while I grab the mail,” my mother would say.
But sometimes I would get the chance to go inside and watch as my mother turned the combination of letters that opened the intricately stamped bronze door with the small window that revealed if any envelopes were in the box.
I watched in wonderment as the box was opened once the correct sequence of letters was made. I wanted to open that box myself one day.
I never mentioned my inner passion for freeing the mail from its cubbyhole in Box 302.
I just made sure to peer in each and every time as my parents made the combination work.
My eyes followed each turn until the small round box latch could free the door to swing open.
Our post office lady had lollipops for kids, but I seemed more interested in watching that box open like some great safe that held treasure.
In looking at all the boxes, I wondered how long it would take someone who knew all the combinations to open every one.
Perhaps he could time himself and make a great race out of it.
The post office was a great gathering place and everyone you met there asked how you were and what was new?
The conversations ranged from a quick hello to stories that seemed to last an eternity before we could get out the door.
So on that mid-January day when I was about to turn eleven I decided I wanted to try my hand at opening the box.
I wanted to pull out the birthday cards that were for me from my own box.
Even though I could easily reach the box, I stood on my tiptoes just because I was so excited.
I could feel the sides of my face getting red as I tried twice without success.
When I rolled the small knob around to clear the letters on my third try the door opened like some marvelous new invention that held all the world wonders.
I reached in and pulled out the mail that included two cards addressed to me.
Attached to the mail were some really cool stamps.
I asked my mother if I could start to keep a collection of the great stamps that came with our mail.
For the next year I sifted through every envelope and peeled off stamps that I thought were cool and pressed them into a sticky back photo album that I still have forty years later.
It is not as interesting to get my mail these days as most are hoping I will write them back in the form of a check.
But I do still enjoy looking at all the colorful stamps I collected in the past.
Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller,
lives at Inlet. firstname.lastname@example.org