Putting up a mailbox

I ran down to our local Lowe’s Wednesday after work to get everything I needed. It took me a while to locate the items (I always hate to ask), but the in the end the fellow directed me to aisle 4, where I found a cedar post, a set of steel mounting brackets, burnished brass house numbers, and a mailbox. I chose the white one with the red metal flag because I thought it would look sharp with our blue and white-trimmed house.

I stowed the paraphernalia in the garage, figuring the next morning I would tackle the chore of putting up the mailbox for home mail delivery.

I slept somewhat fitfully (the night air was close), rose early, pulled on my work clothes and found a tape measure in the kitchen.

I walked down the driveway and along the curb to the neighbor’s front yard, where I stopped to measure the height of his mailbox and distance it stood from the curb.

Then I retraced my steps to our garage, measured the cedar post, read the suggestions on the back of the mailbox package, studied the steel brackets and the mounting instructions, located my old posthole digger—and then retired to the front porch.

I sat in the rocking chair in the sun and listened to the sounds of the morning. The dog curled up at my feet, occasionally lifting her head to offer a bit of solace. Dogs sometimes understand these things better than their human masters.

None of us relishes change in our lives; most of us are downright averse to it. Hence the undue stress experienced when changing jobs, making a move, getting married, becoming a new parent—or putting up a mailbox.

Many times change is forced upon us. Like it or not, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, pressed into making a difficult decision.

Shortly after my wife and I moved from Pennsylvania to this New England town thirty years ago, we rented a mailbox at the village post office. The postmistress stepped out from behind the window to demonstrate how to manipulate the antique brass dials. “Now you give it a try,” she said. I did; it opened fine.

I used to lift my kids into our red wooden Radio Flyer wagon and pull them down Winthrop Street past Bob Atkins and Son small engine repair shop and Farrell’s Market to check the mail. Afterwards I’d pull them back up the street and maybe stop off at the school playground to push them on the swings before heading home.

When they got older, my kids learned how to dial in the code to open that post office box; and they’d walk down to check the mail on their own.

Later, when my kids were grown up, I used to take my granddaughter down to the post office to check the mail. We would stop at the window to chat with the postmistress and select a piece of candy from the basket. (I was always partial to root beer barrels; my granddaughter liked Tootsie Rolls.)

The village post office was the place where neighbors met and greeted one another. Inside, they talked as they waited in line to purchase stamps or post packages, and afterwards they talked on the steps outside. The postmistress knew everyone by name. If you stopped by to check the mail, she’d tell you if your spouse had already dropped in. She knew the names of your kids and what they were doing with their lives. She ran an efficient ship and did so with a smile.

Our local post office closed last February. Since then, instead of getting our mail through the village post office box as we had done for the past three decades, we’ve had to drive seven miles round trip into town to check the mail. The town post office is busy, hectic, understaffed; the parking is horrendous; and, unlike the village post office, nobody knows your name.

Over the past four months our mail has been delayed, misplaced, returned undelivered. I have stood in line at the window for twenty minutes to call for an item that was too large for our post office box, only to find that no such item was available. (There must have been some mistake, the clerk explains: perhaps the yellow card had been place in the wrong box. If anything comes in, he’ll let me know.)

And so I made the decision to erect a mailbox at the end of our front walk and have the mail delivered to our home. It will be a change, I’m sure. There will be glitches to be dealt with, but nothing insurmountable. Eventually, things will sort themselves out.

Meantime, I’m still sitting in the sun on the front porch, figuring that it’s too late to start the project this morning. Soon I’ll have to get ready to go to work. I have to work the next day as well, and my daughter tells me it’s supposed to rain this weekend.

I suppose, all things considered, I might have to put it off until sometime next week, maybe even the week after.

The dog lifts her head and yawns, then rests her chin on her front paws and regards my face with empathetic eyes. She’s well aware that nobody likes change, least of all me.


2 comments on “Putting up a mailbox

  1. David Hildreth says:

    Be sure you get it the required 42 inches above the road. And prepare yourself for the possibllty that it will suffer a direct hit around Halloween time or from the town snow plow you cannot do without. If you live long enough, you may get a mail box again — in your retirement home. Meanwhile, take the dog for a walk.

  2. td says:

    It’s good you’re a real handyman Brian … taking a break between each step “back to the future” of rural mailboxes. You’ve Got Mail !

    (btw, the actual U.S. P.S. rural box height is 41 to 45 inches, but they’ll deliver to any secure box that can easily be reached through a car window)

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