Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

When you're 13.75 months and 7,738 miles away from the one you love, life's small tasks can assume a much larger importance, like getting to the post office on time.

When I first met my mother-in-law, she recounted the time she spent waiting on the father of my beloved while he complete his 3rd tour in Vietnam. It was a different time then, so over the course of his tour, she was able to talk to him on the phone but one or two times to update him on wedding plans and that was it for the entire year (what a cruel deployment world it must have been with no email!). But every single day, she wrote him a letter and he wrote one to her.

Those letters are long lost, but their story left an impression on me. I knew when I was told this story that the legacy of those love letters would carry on in my letters to my husband when he deployed. Would I find something interesting enough to write about every day for 15 months? So far, yes.

Writing the tiny number in the corner of each letter or card I have sent has become a matter of great importance. Now, I just got an address from him, so I'm only on Letter #13 and Package #5, but each time the number goes up, I visualize the moment I'll be writing a number like "Letter #259." At that point, so much more of this deployment will be behind us, though it's somewhat sobering to realize I will get up to like, Letter #455. Who knows where he will store these letters in his tiny living space!

Today was a long, busy day at work. To my dismay, I realized that in the hustle, I'd forgotten to put his daily letter in the mail. I drove up to a post office I know that has a late last pick up, and tossed the letter in, feeling a great sense of relief. No sooner did I toss it in than I realized that I'd forgotten to put a stamp on it. I drove off in a self-created panic, thinking, "What now? I can't get the mail out of the box. Now I have to wait for it to come back to me. Will the mail sorter give me a break when they see where it's going and slip it through or will they roughly apply a rubber stamp to it that says: RETURN TO SENDER FOR POSTAGE"

I simply couldn't bear the thought of this being The Letter That Might Have Gotten on to the Airplane and In His Hands if Only His Wife Remembered to Use a Stamp! What if waiting would have meant getting into the next batch of mail? I felt a little girl's dismay wash over my heart and I almost began to cry until I pulled it together, flipped a U-turn, and decided I would drive back and stalk the mailboxes until they got emptied. I went back, fearing the postman would say that it was a federal crime for me to try and intercept this peice of mail and thinking of what I would say.

I waited there, pacing as I watched the last folks scrambling to get their bills off from the post office with the latest pickup time in San Diego County (8 pm).

And finally, there he was, bathed in heavenly light- the man who held the precarious symbolic treasure of my marriage and my husband's morale in his very hands! I bet if I explain where the letter is going, what color it is, and what perfume is on it, he will let me put a stamp on it!

There's a happy ending, of course. He listened to my panicked story and asked me which box it was in and we found it right away. He let me stamp it so it will be properly postmarked 7/10/07 (and we all know how men at war have nothing else to do besides notice the time between postmarks). When my husband gets it, he won't really have a way of knowing how much love went into this one particular letter, but I guess it really doesn't matter. I will know and it matters to me.

Thank you, Mr. Postman.