I used to go to a little town on Fire Island for the summer. Our address was our name, name of town, state, zip. It was amazing letters reached us. They were sorted alphabetically into pigeon holes in a tiny little room adjacent to the Village Hall that served as a post office. The postmistress was a year-round resident who rescued strays, which, because this was a barrier beach, meant pets who had been abandoned by vacationers who couldn’t be bothered to take them to the animal shelter on the mainland.
For several summers I was a counselor at the village day camp. On our way down to the dock for swimming lessons one of us would nip into the post office to see if we had any mail. This was a long time ago, before computers, back when your parents would end your phone calls with the words “long distance.” Children back then had stationery sets or little note cards that folded into envelopes. Lots of letters began with apologies for uncool designs received as gifts. Or we rebelled and wrote on diner placemats or hotel letterhead.
Letters emblazoned with Snoopy stickers, p.p.s. messages scrawled across the back, written in a rainbow of dying pens by friends at sleep-away camp and one friend biding her time in Morristown, New Jersey until her family’s summer rental later that summer were read aloud during the swimming lessons. We’d carry them folded up in the back pockets of our cut-off jeans shorts, for that was what we wore, and they’d be re-read later on the beach. Sand got in the envelopes. You’d use them as bookmarks. But they were important. Getting mail was important, as was writing letters, which could be done while you were with your friends, like the way the youth of today text each other, and give the eyewitness version of killing time on the beach. I’m putting it in the letter.
We were isolated on our barrier island while the camper was cut off from her people, though she would regale us for several days with bunkmate stories when returned. Stopping at the post office was like my daughter logging into her gmail account where her friend has written from India to say that it is hot and rainy. All of us at the beach were connected to friends back home, to people and excitement elsewhere.
One of the tribal meet preparations of my daughter’s swim team is that they write on each other with Sharpies. My daughter’s limbs are printed like the back of an envelope. Girls claim each other with bubbly penmanship and they are marked as one of the team. You are not alone.
This blog is like a letter to anyone, including myself, who would ask how it’s going. Summer, I will tell you, is hot. I miss my friends. The food sucks. I’m taking tennis lessons. I had a really bad case of poison ivy. I still exist. And for those of you who wish I would share more of the wit and wisdom of Alabama, here’s this. It is is neither witty nor wise, but it sure makes me laugh.