Our mailbox is a cat with nine lives.
It is huge and surely dates from at the very least the 1920s. Last summer it needed resuscitation, after its base separated from its sides. Fortunately the local welder gifted it an extended lease of life with some strategic spot welding and grinding.
The mailbox has featured in many a photograph, as a sort of silent sentinel on guard for all seasons, expanding with summer heat and adorned by wild flowers and grasses; lashed by fall rains; contracting tight in Winter’s freezing grasp, buried under snow, shrouded in ice and blindsided by the snowplow time and again.
Yet throughout, the mailbox keeps constant vigil, receiving letters from loved ones, postcards from distant lands, bills and more bills, parcels and packages, Christmas and birthday greetings. There are never any complaints – simply dutiful and honest service throughout its decades of passive industry for countless families.
One day last spring, as I returned home, I was appalled to see that robust and rusty fellow lying hapless and helpless, prostrate in the cold mud of spring at the foot of his squat and sturdy milk-churn base. It was April 1 and I allowed myself to fancy that it was yet another playful April Fool’s joke. But no, I had just deluded myself momentarily. Immediaely my mood changed from benign amusement to being horrifyingly aghast!
With much concern and consternation, I leapt forward, falling to my knees and searching for vital signs. After hasty triage, I determined that the ancient six-inch diameter cedar log that had stoutly supported the heavy iron box for decades had finally failed. From too much weight, too much water, too many blows and perhaps too little love, the fibers had splintered in a sodden and pulp-ridden mess of wet wood.
Although it was seriously injured, I vowed allegiance and reassured my loyal mailbox that he would rise again like a Phoenix from the ashes to greet the ever-warming spring sun and rally once more to receive our mail and honour our concession road with his tireless and constant labour. I removed the much-beleaguered cedar log and settled it into a place of secluded reverence and peace, replacing it with a fine stout pressure-treated cedar 4″-x-4″ lag, bolted through lug holes in the rim of the cement-weighted milk churn. It once again stands proud and erect and ready to receive.
But, in all honesty, I feel that with the way of the world and the flood of digital correspondence and virtual communication, that mailbox may well be entering a period of much-overdue and heartedly-deserved retirement, along with the recipients of so much mail: Chris, and now, of course, Maggi. It might be time for Mr. Mailbox to just sit out there in the sun, allow the wild flowers of summer to twine around him with sweet floral fragrance and open up occasionally to be the happy recipient of a colourful postcard, bearing tidings of great joy from distant parts.
We must never forget however his stalwart partner in labour, Mr. Milk Churn, who shares a symbiosis of function. Imagine now that this rusty old milk churn has not only been supporting Mr. Mailbox for decades, but that there was a hardy previous life, involving countless cows and hundreds of pints of fresh farm milk lovingly ladled into its clean, cool vortex each and every day. The ruddy-faced farmer, who hefted this bovine ambrosia onto the awaiting milk cart and the assertive yet gentle ” giddy up”, as the faithful horse leads on, the cart wheels turn and the milk is conveyed to market along the dusty and rutted road.
Hard times but simpler times.