Checking the Mailbox…

All my life the contents of the letter box has been very important to me.

In order to receive post everyday at boarding school I had to write numerous letters on Sundays.


My first few letters from school in 1966 & the only ones saved

Our inbound missives were put on, what we called, The Postman’s Table, in a broad corridor near one of the back doors.  A prefect gave them out during our break at eleven.  I’d walk past the table on my way to or from class and sneak a peek to see if I could recognize an envelope addressed to me; lots had the tell-tale airmail markings, most of our parents were abroad, so it was more wishful thinking than absolute certainty but we weren’t allowed to retrieve our own letters.  If I thought I may have a letter the anticipation welled in my stomach and I couldn’t pay attention in whatever class I was obliged to sit through before our tea and biscuit break.

When I got older and boys from the nearby school started corresponding the Postman’s Table took on greater significance.  It was all the rage to use brightly colored envelopes and I could spot my letter more easily but it wasn’t until I was in the VIth form that I was allowed to lift it directly from the table without waiting for it to be handed to me.

When I moved to America letters were also a  vital part of my life.  The telling blue envelope with its distinctive red and blue markings kept me in touch with my parents and cousins, Aunts and Uncles, friends and, every now and again, my brother.


Selection of early letters from home 1983

The telephone was still expensive to use so the few calls I made were reserved for my parents on special occasions.

I used to write a quarterly letter to about a dozen people outlining all our news. Many would respond and when the children were young the mail box was a place to run to and check with expectancy.


Letters from around the world

From the end of November into the first week in January there’d be the daily probability of a card, or two or three, in the mailbox at the side of the road.  I’d string them up the length of the windowed wall at Collins, sometimes we’d have them lining the stairs, covering tables and bookcases.  Tens and tens of cards ranging from famous people Hubs had worked with, to far flung family members and friends, to acquaintances we’d met for a few weeks during a theatre season.

I’d send out more than 100 and receive 70 or 80.

Over the last ten or so years I have grown disheartened; I still wrote regularly but no-one wrote back.

As the 21st century took hold so did electronic communication.  The e-mail replaced the letter for most of my friends and digital cards began arriving with an audible ding and a sing song voice announcing,

“You’ve got mail!”

“I can’t pick up and read a digital card, ” I whined to Hubs.

As the children got older and started college I began writing a book and then a blog and then hosting a weekly radio show.  Writing letters became redundant as there were other ways folk could keep up with the goings on in the McNeny household.

The scores of letters both sent and received was eventually reduced to a once a year update tucked into the Christmas card, with a family photo.

This was followed by a trimming of the list and last year I only sent out 54 handmade cards.

This year I sent even fewer and was disappointed when the few that arrived


were mostly from companies like Chewy, where I buy my kitty litter, The Pet Coalition where I had the cats neutered, or insurance agents and bankers.

Of course older family members are still traditionalists at heart and regularly send cards…

One person I didn’t send a card to died on December 21st and I was mortified.  He didn’t die because I decided to skip him this year, but I thought how easy it is to lose touch with all those dear friends who were once an important part of my life and with whom I have a tenuous connection through the annual Christmas card, photo and update.

For myself I eagerly look for a letter from my peers as I did at school all those years ago.  I reckon others must feel the same way and enjoy opening my contribution to the celebration of the Christ Child’s birth.

Perhaps they may even miss the one that didn’t show up in their mail box this year.

In response to this drought of interesting mail my oldest son and I send monthly cards to one another.

I string mine across my office window,


two years’ worth ready to be taken down at any time and re-read when I’m missing him.

Daughts sent out Christmas cards these past two years, now that she is married and feels it’s a grown up thing to do!

Soooo…I am thinking between us, the few who enjoy writing and receiving notes, letters and cards, we may stir up a Real Mail craze.

It could become a trend; the joyful anticipation of checking the mail box every day and being rewarded…at least in December.

And it starts with me and you!

Share this:



2018-01-15 23:26:36 Reply

Great concept. Lets hope it catches on!

Leave a Comment