Recently on my quiet country road we had a spate of vandalism. A dozen or so mailboxes were brutally bashed, mine among them. It was just a plain polyvinyl box to be sure, but my dad – gone for a year and more now -- had painted the black box a cheerful red and white to match the colors of my barns. I picked the pieces of the shattered box off the lonely road and said good-bye.
It’s not easy to replace an old friend. Perhaps you remember my daily trek to the mailbox and back? The photo journey is here in case you missed it. I delayed the inevitable. Packages arrived and were routed to the main post office because there was nowhere to put them. But making a trip into town to collect the mail would surely mean a stop at the local hardware store to choose a replacement box and my heart just wasn’t in it.
At last there came a day when I had to post a bill payment through the mail. Damn you, water co-op! Why are you the only rural bill collector yet to offer an easy online payment option? Because of you I was forced at last to plan a trip into town those 8 long miles away.
I woke that morning, mentally preparing myself for the trip and wondering if the late fee was perhaps not too high a price to pay if it meant I could put off making the trip another day or three. One look in the feed bins, though, reminded me there were other necessities waiting in town. I could stretch the time between trips to the feedstore to a month or so, but not beyond.
Then wonder of wonders my mail carrier showed up at my door. All the other neighbors who’d lost their mailboxes that same tragic night had already replaced theirs and my carrier was concerned about why I hadn’t yet. She was, she told me, afraid when she drove up that she’d look through my windows and find my half-eaten remains lying on the floor. We hugged, and she left with my promise that I would get on with my life and do the necessary thing.
In the store, down an aisle I rarely had need to go, a dozen and more new mailboxes beamed hopefully at me from their faux mailbox posts. Simple metal boxes in gunmetal grays and blacks. Flashier boxes with copper trim. Were there none that were red and white? I considered one of the expensive, pedigreed boxes that tempted me with its ultra-smooth surface and magnetic close. In the end, though, I chose a simple, black polyurethane box, confident it would provide the same service and support as my old friend had.
Its predrilled screwholes didn’t match the holes my old box had left behind in the valiantly still-standing mailbox post. I had to start new holes for our journey ahead. I even had to screw a decorative pull, something my old box never had, into its door. So many things were the same yet different about this box. As I applied new, adhesive-backed, vinyl reflective house numbers to its sides, though, I realized that while this box would never replace the old one in my heart, it could still bring happiness not just to my mail carrier, but to me.And there on the side of the lonely road, I lifted the box’s flag in a final farewell to my old friend -- and in brave salute of my new one.