SCOT BELLAVIA: A Minute in My Neighborhood

Laying on our blanket covered with the earliest crumbles of fallen leaves, I see our mailman four houses down. My one-year-old daughter, C–—, stands up, using her fists and my index fingers for balance, and we watch him go and stop, go and stop.

Our neighborhood’s developers had the foresight to consider the daily quota of our friendly mailman when they tamped the upright mailboxes on a single side of the road. Ours. So, I delineate my yard from my next-door neighbors’ by mowing a stripe down from the mailbox of our across-the-street neighbors. So, our mailman only has to make one trip down the road for every family, rather than going both directions for half the families at a time.

My daughter and I are lounging on the blanket and leaves, stage left, close to the across-the-street neighbors’ mailbox. Her three-and-a-half year old brother, my son A–—, is playing a three-and-half year old’s game far behind us against the house. He says he is building a “bond-fire” with the loose bricks that have been in a puddle of themselves since we bought the house.

I call his attention to the approaching mailman. A–— has taken on the chore of saving our mailman the trouble of opening our box by receiving it himself and delivering it to me, as a dutiful beagle brings slippers to its owner in its mouth. I don’t own him, but he has done the mouth thing with the mail.

From his brick bond-fire, my son runs to his post as our mailman, W–—, goes and stops at the across-the-street neighbors’ box in front of my daughter and me.

“C–— is sprouting like a weed!” W–— smiles. C–— smiles beneath her pacifier. I mumble some  greeting or gratitude, trailing W–—’s name at the end with the insecurity my generation has for these ill-defined relationships–who among my friends knows their mailman’s name?

W–— continues along our yard to our box, still leaning out of his truck.

“A–— too!” our daily Santa cries.

“I need some mail,” the beagle asserts.

“You need some mail? I’ve got a lot for you today; here you go!”

I think, how does he know my kids’ names? Of course: the mail. I think, a mailman watches families grow up delivering birthday cards and packages, bills and invitations, subscriptions and acceptance letters.

W–— goes and stops again to deliver a box that wouldn’t fit in our across-the-street-neighbors’ box. The mother of the house greets him at the door, asks a question, gets his answer, and finishes with a thankful, “You were missed.”

“I appreciate that.” says W–—.

He walks back to his truck as my across-the-street neighbors’ next-door neighbor, an unofficial grandma to my children, laments the bills W–— delivered to her.

He calls, “You see all the money I brought you today, C–—?” (She is not my daughter’s namesake.)

“Yeah, well, I’m winning the lottery tomorrow!” He laughs and says, “I bet you will!”

And he goes and stops at the next house and goes and stops again.

He had been camping; I heard later. Grandma C–— shared this with my wife, and don’t you know his sub was never less than thirty-five minutes late every day? And here I was, having patted myself on the back for months, thinking I was generous to only know W–—’s name though I was afraid to use it.

– Scot Bellavia

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