Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Line at the Village Post Office

One last package.  There’s always one, one that doesn’t make it on the list I’d been keeping, or the gift getting sidetracked on the floor next to the pile of wrapping paper, labels and bows on the dining room table.  The room had taken on its annual pre-Christmas chaos.  Christmas music was playing on the stereo as I finally got the present wrapped and in a box.  I was in the height of my pre-Christmas frenzy.
I rushed into town, my “town list” of errands in hand.  The parking lot at the post office is well-filled with cars and trucks, and the line inside doesn’t disappoint my expectations of the last minute rush.  I just wanted to get my errands finished in town and get home, to yet more errands.  Not very Christmasy, but the week had been filled with work and errands and the project list that never seemed to end.  
“Ho, ho, ho, and merry Christmas,” wasn’t what I was saying as I darted through the traffic and into the post office scene.
On my way to the door, a man stopped to wish me a Merry Christmas and tell me about the joys of being a grandparent.  I stopped to enjoy the tale, and the big smile on his face.  His big smile made me remember my family, and the memories of Christmases gone by.
I stuffed the last of my outgoing Christmas cards in the mail slot and rushed to take my place at the end of the line.  
“Drat,” I said to myself, seeing that the line of customers was long and there was only one clerk.  “I’ll be here forever.”
Impatiently, I settled in for the long wait, and noticed a guy I hadn’t seen for a while.  He was a good friend, and we caught up on our news, and his daughter’s adventures.  
A mom with two toddlers was trying to mail a package overseas, and had to keep coming back to the counter with the customs declaration, not quite completed according to government requirements.  The mom and the clerk kept talking, and we soon learned the package was for her grandma, clothing and food, and a last minute Christmas present the kids had made.  The toddlers were patient, but starting to fuss a bit.  Finally, the clerk stamped the package and the paperwork, and gave each kid a Santa’s Helper stamp to wear on their coats.  Their gleeful shrieks brought chuckles and laughter to the line of now patient and happy customers.  
The lady ahead of me talked about thinking she was done with packages and mailing, then found the bowl of cookie dough in the fridge she had mixed up the day before.  The package in her hands were the results of that discovery, home baked cookies for her son and grandchildren in Seattle.  
The man behind me tapped me on the shoulder.  
“Long time, no see,” he said, his face unfamiliar to me, until he said his name.  We were high school classmates and hadn’t seen each other for forty years.
He was living here now, taking care of his aging mother, moving back from New York City.  We laughed about our gray hair and looking just a bit different that we had our senior year in high school.  We’re going to meet for lunch in a few weeks, and catch up with our lives.
The man behind him had been my mother’s neighbor, and another man had been the family grocer for many years.   Old memories were shared and smiles broadened on faces at the talk of good times and seeing old friends. Soon, the room was abuzz with handshakes and laughter and warm conversations.
The long line seemed shorter now, now that everyone was visiting and talking about what they were mailing and what their plans were for Christmas.  
When it was finally my turn with the harried clerk, she greeted me warmly by name, and flashed her smile.  Her sister was coming tonight, and she was eager to get home.  Overwhelmed by the long line, she took the time with every customer, tending to their needs, and wishing each a merry Christmas.  A Christmas angel, I thought.  And, an angel I had needed to see.
I almost hated to leave then, my business complete, the long list of “town errands” done.  I’d gotten a lot more out of my last chore on the list than I’d expected.  The line of folks waiting for the one clerk was still nearly out the door, but the room was filled with laughter and visiting, and the spirit of Christmas.
--Neal Lemery


Wanda said...

Oh, Neal...I love this post. I love how you see and love people! Merry Christmas, my friend. I'd wish you blessings, but I really need to wish you more blessings--for you truly are already blessed.

Anonymous said...

Special sharing, Neal. (from Scott Allen)

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