Today, I got home to find my mail-lady stuffing my mailbox, using her fist to cram letters and manila envelopes in the government-approved receptacle.
That poor woman. She’s having a hard time because our mailbox was the recent victim of “mailbox baseball,” which is a game played during the summer months.
The rules of the game are loose, but it involves speeding cars filled with teenagers beating the tar out of innocent mailboxes.
The object of this game is: Any teenager who awakes the next morning and still remembers what happened the night before, wins.
Because of this, our beat-up mailbox looks more like a mutant metal pancake with a flag attached.
I need to install a new box, but I kind of like the character our dented mailbox has. It seems to scream to the world, “Hey, look at me! I’m lopsided! When it rains the mail gets wet!”
My mail lady hates our mailbox. She tells me it is one of the top four things that causes her high blood pressure. The top item on her list is her mother-in-law in Tampa.
I receive a lot of mail. Which is a new thing for me. Used to, nobody wrote me but Ed McMahon and the IRS. But now I get mail from all over, sometimes from exotic countries like Canada.
Today, I got a letter from Jacksonville, from a woman I met a few weeks ago. It was a very touching letter. I cried when I read it.
I also got a letter from a man named Myron, who is from Tacoma, Washington, whose father just died.
This week alone, I received letters from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Chanute, Kansas; Oswego, New York; and Atlanta, Georgia.
Most of my letters, however, come from Alabama. I am fortunate to call Alabama my adopted home away from home. Last week, I got several letters from Birmingham, a handful from Dothan, a couple from Montgomery, one from Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Oxford, Slocumb, and one from Slapout.
I read them all. Every single one. Every single word.
So that’s why I am writing this. This column is a response to anyone who has ever taken the time to send me a letter, an email, a package, a book, or—as in the incident of January ‘17—has attempted to enter my house without permission. This is for you.
Do you know how special you are? I don’t know if you do. I wish you did.
You sent me a box containing four jars of pickles. One jar was so spicy I lost nerve sensation on my tongue for three months.
You carved a walking stick with quotes from famous American authors on it.
You sent me past issues of M.A.D. Magazine, and old Superman comics.
You are a ninety-one-year-old from Louisiana, who wrote me a letter that smelled like perfume.
You are the woman from Auburn who sent me a poster of Willie Nelson.
You are the kid from Andalusia who sent me a letter requesting prayer for his mother’s breast cancer.
The woman who finally got the courage to leave her abusive husband in South Carolina.
I’m sorry I don’t have enough hours in the day to write each of you in pen. Believe me, this feels like a poor substitute. But I hope you know that I mean the following statement from the bottom of my heart:
My life was sort of gray and blah before I met you. Before you, I was not an optimist, I believed that the world was one-dimensional, and I thought the odds were stacked against me.
But then came you. I don’t know how we met, and it doesn’t matter. We know each other now, somehow, and we like each other.
Maybe you gave me a thumbs-up online, or a wink, or you clicked “like,” or you shared something I wrote with your grandmother, your grandson, your father, mother, sister, support group, book club or Yorkie Poo.
Maybe you cut out my article and stuck it to your refrigerator. I don’t know. But I do know a few things:
- You have terrible taste in writers.
- I am a terrible writer.
- We are a match made in heaven.
You didn’t think you were doing anything important. You thought you were just being nice, sending me a message. But you were doing more than that.
You blew the dust off my entire world and made me believe in something again. In my mind I have always felt like nothing. But today I am a nothing with friends. Which makes me feel like something.
You were the elderly Presybyterian minister who wrote, “I’m proud of you, Sean.”
You were the letter written from a fourteen-year-old who ran away, but decided to go back home.
You were the teenage kid I met last weekend, in Birmingham. Whose mother died in a car accident.
The little girl with brain cancer.
I wish I could hug every one of you because I am a big hugger. And I wish we could hold each other for awhile and talk. But until then, I guess these feeble words will have to do.
I love you.
More than you will ever know.
And now I am going to repair my mailbox.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.