Free Write Friday: Mail

My mom used to send me magazine clippings in the mail. She’d come across an article about medicine or my old high school or our family summer vacation locale and she’d clip it and staple it and send it off in a nondescript white envelope. I’d receive the envelope, neat looped handwriting instantly recognizable, and I’d open it right away. The newspaper clipping or torn magazine sheets usually went into a pile meant to be read later. 

But I was in college, trying to keep up with a rigorous load of textbooks and essays and journal articles. Or I was in medical school, busy with anatomy lab and pathology and pharmacology, drowning in index cards and color coded diagrams meant to aid memorization of muscle insertion and organ innervation. Or I was in residency, distracted with an eighty hour work week and a new husband and new home and new reality of responsibility for very sick patients. Or I was traveling, studying abroad or working internationally, sorting through the complexities of the injustices and richness and suffering and beauty I encountered in the greater world and trying to determine my place in it all. So into a pile they went.

Sometimes I’d come across one much later, still folded neatly, pale yellow post-it with mom’s personal commentary attached: “Thought you’d be interested in this! Love, Mom” Sometimes I’d read it or toss it, but usually it went back in the pile. I felt guilty throwing them away; the effort she put in. 

After I got married my husband started receiving the articles too: about bamboo, education, triathlons. He came to recognize the plain white envelopes, the practical script. He started a pile of his own.

I don’t get clippings anymore in my mailbox. She still sends articles, but they’re attached to an email, they’re posted on Facebook. I usually put them in my mental pile of “to read”, same guilt setting in. I realize, though, I miss the paper piles, the tangible envelope pulled from a mailbox. I miss it in the sentimental way old people miss a diner or their favorite hand lotion or Reader’s Digest. The tangible sleekness of magazine pages, the coarse newspaper marking my fingers. My mom’s distinct cursive signaling the envelope, the article, indicating she thought of me, she thinks of me, and wanted me to know.

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