When I was a child, I loved getting mail. It didn’t happen often, but when an envelope showed up with my name on it, I knew I could tear into it (before I knew what a letter opener was) and enjoy whatever was inside.
My first pieces of mail were birthday and Christmas cards, which always brought me supreme joy. Not too long after that, I had a few pen pals with whom I loved exchanging news from our respective parts of the world.
It didn’t really matter what it was. If it landed in our mailbox and had my name on it, it always had a bit of a surprise factor to it. It always warmed my heart and made me smile to think that someone was thinking of me and took the time to send me a note.
I wonder if that sentiment is what inspired me to reciprocate and to get into the routine of sending birthday and Christmas cards as I got older. Perhaps the mail service was also an opportunity for the emerging writer in me to break from the university or corporate writing routine, and to write letters for the pure fun of it… I know some people will disagree with me on that, but yes, I think it’s fun.
When I think back, I don’t fully understand why I was so fascinated with mail when I was a kid. I don’t know if it’s because it made me feel part of some sort of exclusive club to which I had been accepted as the mail was something I saw as typically reserved for grown-ups.
If I remember correctly, I think I twisted my Mom’s arm into getting me a subscription to “Vidéo Presse”, a popular French magazine for kids back in the day, not just for the content, but also for an additional piece of mail in my name.
In my university years, I took it one step farther when I learned the joys of ordering through the mail, before the Internet and online shopping became a thing. I subscribed to a few of my favourite music magazines and bought a few books that I couldn’t find at the bookstore or library. Whenever they slid into the mail slot, I was always thrilled.
When I moved out on my own, I didn’t really mind getting bills. To me it was just a ritual of “adulting”, but still I somehow felt increasingly validated as a grown-up with mail arriving in my name. Of course, there wasn’t much sentimentality or surprise attached to electricity bills or telephone bills, but still, collecting my mail was something I enjoyed.
A few years later, when online shopping was popularized, I stretched my wings. At first, the thought of putting my credit card number on a web site made me incredibly nervous, so I asked the bank if I could get a low-limit credit card, separate from my usual credit card, and use it only for online purchases. My banking representative agreed with my idea and signed me up.
With that nervousness out of the equation, I embarked on the journey. I was always careful in ensuring I was shopping from well-known, reputable sellers, but I definitely felt more empowered to shop online, especially when life got busy.
Through those years, I bought CDs and DVDs I couldn’t find in stores, and I picked up some books I wanted to read. I was also able to take advantage of the biggest sales at my favourite clothing stores without having to deal with centrally-heated, crowded malls, while hauling a winter jacket around.
When I place an order, even though I know what’s in it, I paid for it and I have a confirmation email to say it is on its way, there is still something about the process that stirs up that child-like eagerness and anticipation right up until the day the letter carrier delivers it.
For those shipments that send me shipping updates, and I know the parcel is coming that day, I can’t tell you how many times I go through that “what’s that sound?” routine, when I hear noise from the street, sometimes dashing to the window to see if it is the parcel delivery person. It feels a bit like Christmas Eve in that sense.
To this day, even though I can usually tell who it’s from and what it is, just based on the box, there is still a sense of curiosity much like Christmas morning, every time I open a box. And of course, when I find out what it is, I jokingly say to myself “it’s exactly what I wanted”… or is that just me?
But who knew that all the mail-order practice I got over the years would come in handy through the pandemic. We must have parcels delivered to our door two or three times per week now. These days, it’s more about needs than wants, to avoid trips to the city and to avoid spending more time than necessary in stores or malls. It’s about efficiency and social distancing.
And yet, even though the nature of our mail is pretty dull and practical these days, I still get giddy with excitement when I see the flag up on mailbox, even at age 55, as I take off like the Roadrunner to see what the letter carrier brought.
It’s nice to know that some things never change!
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