Put a Stamp on Your Letter

“Seven Little Postman,” by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd, was one of the many books scattered around our house after the departure of Sweet B and her family.

It tells the story of a little boy who writes a letter (with a secret) to his grandmother. Because he seals it with “red sealing wax,” we can follow the letter in Tibor Gergely’s illustrations as it’s slipped into a familiar letter box, arrives at “a big Post Office all built of rocks,” and moves through various modes of transportation (including a train where postal workers sort letters by hand “through gloom of night, in a mail car filled with electric light”). Finally, it reaches the seventh little postman who “carries letters and papers, chickens and fruit, to the people who live along his route.” At the last house is the little boy’s grandmother, who “had been wishing all day he would come to visit.”

The book dates from the 1950s, and I’ve been reading it aloud since the early 70s, but never have I cried. It was that kind of day. From teary farewells before the camper pulled out of our driveway, to the cleanup of toys, dollhouse, costumes, painting supplies, and crib – the sadness of a visit ending combined with grief over the crippling of our country’s beloved Postal Service.

Because of the fragility of nearly everything these days, no contact with distant loved ones gets taken for granted. Every single day held joy – the ordinary joy of children and grandchildren living nearby.

With wonderful weather we paid a last visit to the bluff, made meals using a huge store of tomatoes brought from the LA garden and ripened along the way, churned homemade ice cream to accompany blackberry pie from neighborhood berries, picked blueberries at a friend’s house, fed stubs of Romaine lettuce to the llamas at another’s. We kayaked and paddle boarded on Eagle Harbor, exploring coves I see daily from the shore. We visited new beaches and old, settling on a favorite and returning multiple times with sandwiches and beach chairs and plenty of opportunity to build castles and search for shells.

Sweet Brother began the visit limited to a quilt on the floor, often rocking back and forth on hands and knees but not moving. But by our last dinner – using an effective and endearing locomotion, a scooting combined with a hip hitch – he easily propelled himself past the table where we ate and into the kitchen or the living room. He’s a real person to us now – a sweet baby – ever fascinated with his sister. Her one set of tears brought a crumple of his little face into downturned mouth and empathetic tears.

And Sweet B – we ran out of time – so much done and so much more we could do. She drew and drew and drew – beginning every day at my worktable with some complicated picture or another. In a big step, she learned to operate the sewing machine with supervision, using the tricks learned from Lady B’s class last summer. She put together a little doll-size quilt – stitching around each square! She painted rocks for the garden, and with her dad painted a square of mural on a wall inside our garage.

We read so many books – old picture book favorites and chapter books, Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie” a hit. There we learned the word “melancholy” – just in time to use it to describe the last few days. It’s utterly greedy to want more, for the visit to last longer, to live closer together. But there you go.

When the letter with the red sealing wax is delivered, the granny finds out the grandson is “coming to visit on Saturday,” and that he is bringing one of his cat’s new kittens! (That’s too much to wish for.)

But I can wish we had a president with honesty, decency, and leadership – and wish that the Post Office could be like it’s always been in my mind (though now with mail carriers instead of just mailmen) – much as described in the poem ending the book:

                                           SEVEN LITTLE POSTMEN

                                Seven Little Postmen carried the mail

                                Through Rain and Snow and Wind and Hail

                                Through Snow and Rain and Gloom of Night

                                         Seven Little Postmen

                                         Out of sight

                                         Over Land and Sea  

                                         Through Air and Light

                                         Through Snow and Rain

                                         And Gloom of Night —   

                                        Put a stamp on your letter

                                        And seal it tight.



20 thoughts on “Put a Stamp on Your Letter

  1. Such a beautiful posting, Katy. You made special memories with this visit of your family, and I love hearing about them.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Lovely post and so much to think about with the attacks on our post office – hopefully we can elect Biden and he and a new congress can straighten things out! Thanks for including the poem from the book ❤️

    • You probably know that book Jo. I have an unabashedly positive view of the Post Office – and mail carriers. We have a great one now – and that daily contact is nice. They are definitely front line workers. Last night was a good start toward victory, don’t you think!

      • I DO know the book and read it to my boys and, more recently, my grandson. We just bought a bunch of stamps and encourage everyone to do the same – support the post office with an infusion of citizen dollars. Last night was a huge boost to my hopefulness for a November victory!

      • Oh, yes, you are right – another reader wrote a post about the stamps! If everyone bought just one sheet of stamps would be a millions of dollars into PO budget! At some point for sure you’ll “put a stamp on your letter and seal it tight!”

  3. What a beautiful post, Katy.. I just ordered three sheets of stamps and am going to try to write some actual letters–it will be challenging to produce legible handwriting.

    • Thank you Vicki! And I, too, just ordered stamps – I love stamps! Little tiny pieces of art – did you see the paintings of fruit in miniature? Or the ones celebrating the sculptor Ruth Asawa? A pleasure!

      • I got the fruit and veg, the frogs, and the American gardens. Always a pleasure to have pretty stamps. I’ve been making do with the generic American flags my husband brought back from the grocery store, I stick them on upside down to signal my distress with this regime.

  4. I could cry too. This time with the grandchildren is so precious. And communication so precious also. But I also think in a way we’re all at fault (not at all dismissing the horrible attack on the USPS itself) with our easy buying into the online aspect of everything involving stamps. Some days I think I keep the post office alive by not opting for online bill pay or non-paper bank and credit card statements. But I have really fallen off on the letter part of my life. Something that used to be so important. Your postcards to your grandchildren are a perfect example of how to use these stamps the their best advantage. I’m so happy for you about this wonderful visit.

    • It’s a balancing act I suppose – nice to not stack up all those paper bills, filed away for what. But no doubt all that online has taken a toll. Agree about the letters – used to be such a lifeline. I’ve loved click ‘n ship – such a great way to send packages without trip to PO in these days. Thank you about the visit — was the best.

  5. Hi Katy! We were in the same melancholy place this past week as our daughter and the grandchildren (and Lucy the dog, too) drove away. We did so many things in those two weeks: the daughter taught us all watercolor (even Grandpa did his spirit wolf!), we watched a lot of “Heartland” (grandkids are 12 and 13, soon to be 13 and 14), baked muffins, made jewelry, and the list goes on; the daughter repainted our bathroom, weeded and planted flowers, pruned the roses, trimmed my hair; the grandkids helped Grandpa finish a new fence, and the list continues. Our little senior cairn was in heaven (she loves being in the midst of a pack, and I’ve sure missed it too). Like you, I counted every moment as a joy, a gift. We’ll be keep in touch via the USPS and email, but counting the days till Christmas too, if all is well enough for them to come. Now back to work and grateful for the distraction from a sore heart. I miss the days when we all lived in the same town; now we’re not even in the same state. But yet…I’m counting my blessings and know you and your fans are too! Thanks for sharing with us!

    • You are welcome! And you make me think of the things I forgot to mention – the son’s helpfulness – learning how to and adding an extension to the sprinklers, bringing huge pots of evergreen huckleberry (I’d given up on) from the bluff, and lots more little jobs I was so grateful to have completed. And you mention Christmas – already find myself wondering about the holidays. Who knows? But yes, mail!

  6. Thank you for sharing this posting, Katy. I’m happy that you were able to enjoy this time with your grandchildren. I know that feeling of melancholy as I watch my grandchildren leave those few times we get to visit these days. It’s difficult to accept the idea that anyone could consider dismantling our postal system. We have always looked forward to seeing our “mailman” arrive each day. I really must locate a copy of The Seven Little Mailmen to send to my grandchildren by way of USPS.

    • Hi Shirley – you are so welcome, and yes – about the postman’s daily visit – I can so vividly remember ever carrier we’ve ever had. And we have a particularly nice one now – and like you say, always happy to see him!

  7. I so enjoy reading about the kiddies and how they are growing and learning and can’t imagine how bittersweet it is to see them leave. Such lovely memories to cherish! Hopefully one day I will know the perfect love of grandchildren. Stay well!

  8. Yes, yes, yes to stamps as tiny works of art. Did you get the frog stamps? Or those based on The Snowy Day? Thanks for a lovely post. It makes me smile, and look forward to a new-to-me children’s book.

    • I love the frog stamps, and the seaside postcard ones — and always try to have LOVE and CELEBRATE stamps on hand – tho few uses for the latter these days. Good to hear from you!

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