“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.