That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Upheaval
Many of us are relying on the post office a lot lately—perhaps you mailed in your ballot, and now you’re mailing holiday cheer to loved ones you might usually see in person this time of year. Even—or perhaps especially—in pandemic times, there’s something special about sending and receiving mail. In today’s That Thing With Feathers, Kathryn Wilder and her grandchildren check their mailboxes and share some joy.
by Kathryn Wilder
I hear my two grandkids come bounding down from their house to mine, all squeals and chatter, before they materialize outside the sliding glass door. Cupping their faces against the glass with their hands to help them see past their own reflections, they still can’t see me. Lacey slides the heavy door open and they startle at my sudden visibility. Lacey rattles off a tale before remembering why they’ve come.
“For you,” she says, thrusting a rainbow candy cane at me while her younger brother remembers the other reason.
This house, built to look like a barn from the outside, has an extra-large living room, which means wasted space, or extra space. In one corner, the kids and “Unk Ty” have built a five-by-five-square-foot cardboard house complete with a drawn-by-Lacey fireplace and pictures on the walls inside, and on the outside, an actual drop-down cardboard grill, a doghouse, and a mailbox—a small box Lacey and Unk Ty attached to the house at a child’s chest height. Lacey made a flag of a single chopstick with one of her drawings taped to the end, which resides at the mailbox, and Unk Ty and I know the drill: if we put “mail” in the box, the flag goes up, and when the kids get their mail, they pull the flag from its slot and lie it back down.
Two days before, I visited the (real) post office on my way back to the ranch after being at the cabin for more than a week. Dropping the canvas grocery bag of bills and junk mail, along with a couple of packages, onto a table, I didn’t open anything, barely glancing at a small but weighty box bearing a return address I did not recognize.
I didn’t open anything, barely glancing at a small but weighty box bearing a return address I did not recognize.