A former student of mine just moved away for college and the other day on Facebook she posted this plea: "Please send mail." She's been sharing her excitement about leaving for school all summer: purchasing a new computer, getting her dorm assignment, buying books, packing, but it was this last call for mail that took me back to my first year at University of Oregon.
I watched my high school classmates depart for schools on semester schedules, leaving me behind in post-high-school-limbo as they started their new lives. Over a month later it was finally my turn and I unpacked my life into a tiny dorm room with its own key and phone number and address.
Walking over to the dining hall at University Inn, meal card and keys in hand, I passed by the mailboxes before every meal. The box-fronts were made of clear plastic so from about ten feet away I could tell if anything waited inside. Those few seconds of anxious excitement almost made my hands shake as I fiddled with my little key to open the box that wasn't attached to anyone's name but my own. That mail wasn't Mom or Dad's or my siblings. It was my own and although most mornings and afternoons the box was empty, I savored the sporadic letters from high school friends at other schools, siblings in distant cities, or packages of cookies from Mom on my birthday or Valentine's Day.
I've since learned not to get too excited about the mail. Most of the time it's junk or bills. The only mail room excitement now comes from a wedding or shower invitation. Magazine subscriptions and wine clubs help a little, but really I should write more letters. I should use those note cards sitting in the box on my desk, put pen to paper, pour out my thoughts and slide that paper into an envelope. I should write the address by hand, apply the stamp and seal it. I should walk the dog to the post office and stick those letters in the mail. Then maybe I'll feel a hint of what I used to feel with that little key at University Inn in the fall of 1992.
But if you should write me first, I promise to write back and then you can look for me in the mail.