Back to the Queen

It was little corner post office on Kingsway. I remember walking there with one hand in my mom’s hand and the other clutching a precious white envelope. We didn’t have to lick our stamps at the post office. There was a shiny white porcelain roller with just the right amount of water to make a stamp sticky but not soggy.

“50 cents please”. Or maybe it was 45? I don’t remember… I do remember receiving the precious little square and with slightly trembling fingers, running it across the roller and trying to place it in a perfect 90 degree angle on the corner of the envelope across from Miss Melody Conchie

“If the stamp isn’t straight they might not send it” my mom would say. (Judging by the rushed haphazard method of applying stamps by today’s post office workers, things have changed. ). Needless to say, I was very careful and soon enough my handwritten (or in later days computer typed) masterpiece bore the regal face of Queen Elizabeth II with her tidy brown curls and elegant crown. Either her or a maple leaf or a dogwood flower. They didn’t have Star Wars stamps back then.

Last week I (gasp) saw a positive news article on my Apple news feed. It has been pretty dismal lately with politics and murders and suicides so how delighted 😀 I was to see CTV and Global report on the 60 year Penpal relationship between two ladies in Australia and Canada. Thus the memory gates of pre Internet pen pals and post offices opened.

As a homeschooler, writing and mailing letters created my Language Arts, math, science and social studies lessons. Oh and PE (I had to walk to the Post Office afterall with bags full of groceries coming home).

I would write to my grandparents and aunts about my 9 pets (science) . My Granny wrote back in her typewriter with garden reports and a recipe for peanut butter and jam French toast. I wrote letters to my friends near and far and always copied down an address or two when I went on holiday.

At summer camp, every child either longed to hear “Mail call” and either receive a letter from home or hear the staff have to sing for theirs.

The mail call at our house was a scary time for the mail man. For we had a ferocious cocker spaniel who took her role in barking at every visitor very seriously. To her delight, the mailman dropped his possessions and the sound of her growl and hastily fled every day. She was especially delighted when she managed to climb out the living room window, trample the flower boxes en route to the porch, and chase our dear mail man halfway down the block. She reveled in her victory when he didn’t come back for a few days.

I had no idea that snail mail, as it now called, would largely be replaced by a spider web. At least that is what I thought everyone was talking about in 1996/97. A web that stretch all the way around the world. Pretty soon our phone was making funny hissing static noises and I had an E-pal in Malaysia. Instead of copying down my friends addresses, I looked up their msn names and chatted late into the night typing things like lol and brb… msn was especially helpful when I was homesick in Quebec and I could pour out my stress to a friend and promptly receive her encouragement. My Granny remained one of my few exclusively snail mail pen pals until she died in 2001.

That was when I was 16. Now I am a little more than twice as old and I have been missing Queen Elizabeth stamps and my walks to the post office.

It started with cards to my nephew and niece and letters to one my still living grandma. Now I am beginning to ask my friends from out of town “do you want to be 🖊 pals? Like the real kind?”

Maybe the return to snail mail is because I now have a daughter of my own and one day I want to help her write her name with a fancy pen, put stamps on an envelope just right and look at our smiling Queen whose curls are now silver and her crown has been replaced with a lovely purple hat.


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