I haven’t precisely traced the genesis of my rapture with all things postal but this geekish thrill includes postcards and letter boxes and mailmen and stamps from foreign countries and the billowing little joy of first receiving the letter and then of opening it.
When I was a young girl, my grandmother and I exchanged a steady correspondence. She lived in southern Alabama; I was growing up on the southern coast of Florida. Although I can’t recall the contours of her face with much clarity, in the eye of my mind I can see her looping penmanship, the blue scrawl and tiny ink blobs from her ballpoint pen, the flourish she added to her capital letters. She wrote on sensible stationary, and her letters contained small stories of her paintings, her dog, her latest outrage with politics. Nothing equalled the delight of coming home to find a letter waiting for me.
Those in my orbit now know I am a postcard sender. Not solely the mandatory holiday dispatch on the back of a glossy shot of locale soft porn, but the unexpected and oddball postcard from my stash of thrift store flotsam. Even though I live less than a mile from one of my closest friends, she and I have a postcard relationship. We are almost gleeful in our tennis game of lobbing weekly postcards back and forth. The goofier the better.
I’d seen my letter carrier in her big white postal van toddling around the neighborhood, but had never met her. As I walked home from work one day, she veered toward me and introduced herself. She had noticed the postcard exchanges between my friend and I. Not many people send postcards anymore, she said. Or letters. And that began our friendship.
Here in my Bishkek apartment building there is a row of blue postboxes on the ground floor and one with my apartment number painted onto it. But all the little doors to all the boxes are open all the time, and the insides are dusty and empty. The State Department dossier on Kyrgyzstan said it had “a working postal system.” I just don’t get the sense it will be working for me.