Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The End of an Era

As I turned to go up Mama and Daddy's lane today, I saw a white mailbox. It was odd, but I figured they must have gotten too old to keep up with the commitment the mailsack required. Not so.

Daddy informed me that he was "agin it" and that " change is the enemy." Cor explained that the US Postal Service will no longer deal in mailsacks.

Why does that make me sad? Maybe because ever since I can remember someone in my family has been "taking the mailsack down" every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (the three days the mail is delivered in Starr Valley). We had two mailsacks and the mail deliverer would just switch the sacks, exchanging our sack with outgoing mail for our sack full of incoming mail.

I remember Daddy sewing some mailsacks on the sewing machine. That was the first time I'd ever seen him sew, and I didn't know he knew how. The sacks were off white and canvas and said "Mark Dahl" in bold black letters. Later, when I was a teenager, Thelma decorated our mailsacks--one with a frog and the other with a flower. They still said Mark Dahl.

When I was a preschooler, I'd go down to the end of the lane, put the sack on its hook, and run until I was out of sight of the road. I was afraid of kidnappers, and figured I was safe once they couldn't see me from the road. Later, I'd take the mailsack and put it on its hook while I waited for the school bus to come. When I could drive, I would drop the mailsack off at the post at the end of the lane. I never was a good enough driver to get close enough to just reach out the window and hang the sack on its hook. I always had to get out.

Having a mailsack was a hassle. Even on days that we didn't need to mail anything, we had to take the mailsack down. If we didn't get the mailsack down in time, it messed everything up. The Post Office wouldn't have a sack to put our mail in for the next delivery day unless we drove the six miles to Deeth and dropped the mailsack off at the Post Office. At least once, I picked the outgoing mailsack up before the mail had come. I learned that I had to check inside the sack and see if the newspaper, The Elko Daily Free Press, was inside. If it was there, I could bring the mail home. If not, I had to wait for the mail.

From the time I left home for college until I returned home to be a schoolteacher, I sent a weekly letter home. Mama sent a weekly letter to me, telling all about their week (Daddy usually wrote a short note in pencil on the bottom of her typed letter). My brothers who were home would write--some (Tabor) more faithfully than the others (who shall remain unnamed). From Provo and London and Poland and Mexico, I loved thinking of my family taking the mailsack down with their letters in it. I loved thinking of them getting the mail and walking it up the lane. Whenever the mail came, Daddy would come in from his shop. He'd take the sack and empty it out on the kitchen table while everybody watched. Because I knew of the excitement we'd experience when Marianne and Thelma wrote home, I knew my family was excited to get a letter from me. I pictured Daddy opening it with his pocket knife and Mama reading it aloud. After we'd perused the mail, somebody would fold up the canvas mailsack and put it on top of the dryer in the storeroom until the next delivery day. There's something quaint and uniting about emptying out the mailsack on the kitchen table as a family.

Because having a mailsack was a hassle, I didn't use one when I moved back to Starr Valley after I was married. We have an impersonal mailbox that doesn't care if we check in with it before the mail comes. Now my parents do too, and I'm going to miss their mailsack.


Jennifer said...

I loved the ode to the mail sack, Olivia. It makes me wonder how many mail sack families there are and why the post office would decide now that there would be no more.

Enoch said...

Liv, it made me sad to hear of this as well. I have so many memories of going to get the mailsack or take it down. I'm blaming Obama. That's the only reason I can think of. Why now? Why this? It can be the only explanation.

Hannah Stevenson said...

Yep, it's got to be Obama!