If you have read this blog for more than one Christmas, you know about my family’s tradition of handmade gifts.

We work on them all year and try and top each other and create lampshades out of slides and hand-carved signs out of wine barrels and entire pictures made up out of words that someone wrote.

There’s a giant production when we present our gifts to each other with great flourish and fanfare and an announcement and tears and general over-the-top dramatic story-telling.

And this year?

Was no exception.

Except.

Except my father-in-law decided to join in with a gift that made me wave my hands around and put together choreography and twirl on one toe singing “Merry Christmas to me.”

A gift I will treasure forever.

And so it was on Christmas Eve with the cold winter wind blustering outside and the Christmas lights twinkling and Santa’s reindeer prancing on the roof…..

…..I opened this.

A glorious vintage and weathered and worn and patina-encrusted set of mailboxes.

Yep.

30 of them all in rows.

Each tiny mailbox slot has a key with a number that opens the doors and there’s a glass panel that goes into each box that he’d already started cleaning for me.

But the thing that made me love them the most?

It wasn’t the tiny numbered star.

Or the beautiful detail on the doors.

Or the tiny markings on the hinges.

Or the beautiful aged finish from years of opening the doors to get the mail.

What made my heart beat faster as I stood in front of them was that if I closed my eyes….

….it was summertime again.

A long time ago in a land far away, I was a seven-year-old unofficial mail fetcher.

We would spend every summer up on Cape Cod and in the center of our summer town, there was a little store that consisted of counters stocked with candy and soda pop and newspapers and lobster traps.

And next door was a post office.

It was the smallest post office this world has ever seen. I think there were about 100 boxes on one wall where the local residents of the town would get their mail.

I’d ride my bike up to the post office with my cousins, collect people’s mail, and deliver it to their houses for them.

Sometimes they would give us fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Sometimes they’d give us cookies.

And sometimes there would be the occasional big tipper who would give us a quarter.

Twenty-five glorious wonderful pennies that we’d take back to the store and buy bagfuls of candy and Bazooka Bubble gum.

And those mailboxes on those long-ago summer escapades?

They looked just the set that showed up on Christmas Eve.

The only thing more special about a gift like this? Having someone in your life who understands how much it will mean to you.

My father-in-law is one-of-a-kind.

When I first married my husband, I found an old kitchen cupboard at a yard sale that needed a makeover. My father-in-law and my husband spent hours painstakingly transforming it into the cabinet of my dreams.

And he’s been helping me with projects (and shaking his head at all the stuff I drag home) ever since.

Thank you, Pa for this gift.

Thank you for getting me.

Thank you for never turning away when I asked you for all that project help.

And thank you, thank you, thank you for understanding that a worn and weary set of mailboxes would mean the world to me.

PS I have big plans for these mailboxes. We are going to clean them up and oil them and add a wood frame and feet and turn them into a side table.

PPS  For everyone who asked, I’ll be sharing the rest of the presents this week and next.

Merry Christmas to me. 🙂

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Comments

    1. Image for Dee Dee

      January 12, 2020... Good morning to all of you. This is my first time posting. I can't tell you how much it meant to me that you shared your beautiful Christmas gift. Your story of summers on our beautiful Cape gave me hope. Thank-you for sharing your lovely Christmas gift. I remember when life seemed so much sweeter and simple. BTW: I have been trying for years to get a regular wall phone with a chord. You and your family were the breath of fresh air that I so much needed this morning. Thank -you. Thanks to your loving FIL. I LOVE THAT HE STARTED to clean the mail box for you. Thank-You once again for sharing.

  1. Image for Leslie Anne Tarabella Leslie Anne Tarabella

    I couldn't help but comment on this — first, "squeal!!!!!" I used to work in an antiques shop that had a similar mailbox configuration. My favorite thing about the job was when I got to move the mailboxes around and decorate them with different things from the store. It was a constantly changing play toy! What a kind and thoughtful gift!

  2. Image for Sue E Sondker Sue E Sondker

    That is special. Something I would love. Many uses but OH the memories! It could hold so much, spices and more. I will love to see the finished product. Happy New Year.

  3. Image for Mary Mary

    We had boxes just like this with a combination lock up until a year ago when the new post office opened and the modern metal boxes now open with a key! I live in the boonies !

  4. Image for Sharon Sharon

    What a great gift. Would you believe that I had four of them when my husband died and no one would even take them for free! I had to get rid of them in a dumpster. It broke my heart. What a great father in law. Happy New Year.

    1. Image for Keri Keri

      Oh how this breaks my heart!! It is such a shame that those pieces of history couldn't find a new home! I wish I had known you. I'd have taken them happily.

  5. Image for Kathy Kathy

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas present with us. I have just lately started following you and enjoying your reminiscing and design style.

  6. Image for Libbie@alifeunfolding Libbie@alifeunfolding

    What a wonderful man! I love the mailboxes and for him to know you so well is such an incredible gift. Makes my heart happy to read!

  7. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Wow! Just wow! Where would someone find vintage mail boxes? I know someone that these would be a perfect gift for.

  8. Image for Keri Keri

    I've been lurking on your blog for a while. LOVE this more than most can comprehend. I love all things truly vintage but rare finds like this make my heart so happy. I've collected a few quirky items (my most treasured is a real parking meter from the 60s!!) and would have cried all week over this one! Enjoy!!

  9. Image for Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces

    What a wonderful, thoughtful gift. I loved hearing your memories. It's so nice when your family just gets you.

  10. Image for Teddee Grace Teddee Grace

    Interesting that it wasn't too long ago that I was wondering what had happened to the wonderful brass mail boxes that were in the post office in my hometown. We lived in the country so got our mail delivered to our roadside box, but I always was intrigued by those little doors with the keyed locks when I was a child and went into town with my mother to get stamps or mail a package. And there was a certain aroma in that old building that I loved. Paper? Ink? I'll be curious to see the finished project.

  11. Image for Nancy Smith Nancy Smith

    What a treasure! This takes handmade gifts to another level. 40 years ago my husbands Uncle created baby “banks” out of two mailbox faces for our twins. Mahogany boxes with aged brass fronts and added a brass money slot on top. He personalized the glass door with their name, birthdate, weight and length written in his script handwriting with a glass tool of some sort. We later received one for our next baby 15 months later. They still have them to this day!

  12. Image for Eve Eve

    What a beautiful gift you received from your Father-in-law. Priceless. Kudos to your Father-in-law for helping you remember a beautiful part of your childhood. Happy New Year!

  13. Image for Cindy Cindy

    What a wonderful and loving father-in-law. I love this and the details are stunning. I look forward to seeing this finished. Such a treasure and I enjoyed reading the story about Cape Cod. A quarter in pennies is awesome especially as a kid. Enjoy your treasure! Cindy

  14. Image for Cheryl Cheryl

    Oh, I am so excited for you!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!! I can't wait to see what you do and I can't wait to see the rest of the presents!

  15. Image for Ellenann Ellenann

    What a fabulous gift! I too, love it when someone “gets you” and is able to share your memories and vision. I have a very dear friend who is my “go to” for just that. She is invaluable. I love this gift! It’s just so special!!! You are one very lucky woman! It’s definitely made from the heart! ❤️

  16. Image for Lou E Gipson Lou E Gipson

    WOW!!!!!!! from the very first photo. before reading a single word.. I thought..WOW!! what a unique Advent Calendar! and then.. after reading more of the story behind the gift.. and discovering your intentions of making it into a side table.. I'll be waiting for the final presentation/reveal!! i know it will be AMAZING!!!!!! what a gift of love from such a wonderful man "who gets you" !!

  17. Image for Patti Harrison Patti Harrison

    So sweet! Every summer for the past 50 years we have spent our summer vacations on Cape Cod. I would love to know which town your memories were grown in. Cape Cod is magical! Happy Day, Patti

  18. Image for Janice Paschal Janice Paschal

    What a great gift for you! Your FIL definitely has the key to unlock your heart to make you happy. It’s an incredible gift. I love it! But I have so many questions. How large is the Mailbox piece in the pic? What size will your side table be? As a young 7-year old riding your bike to get the mail, did you ever get the keys mixed up or lose any of them? Since I’ve been to that summer home, I can really visualize all the young kiddos riding off on their bikes. Fun memories for you.

  19. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    Oh, KA - how AWESOME!!!! Yes, he certainly understands you. That's the perfect gift for the gal who knows exactly what to do with it. And I love the Cape story - so sweet.

  20. Image for Lorri Lorri

    Ah..isnt that so special that when he saw thiis mailbox it would make your heart sing. You are truly blessed. Lorri 💓

  21. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Wow so very special!!! What a great father in law to know you so well. I'm sure you thank him for your twinkle-eyed hubby!!♥ Can't wait to see how you transform it!!

  22. Image for Renee Bayes Renee Bayes

    Wow!!! What a beautiful and thoughtful gift. You are one lucky lady.... will wait “patiently” for the final reveal. Happy New Year! Love Cape Cod— such a magical place.

  23. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Amazing. Simply amazing. Sometimes love shows up in the biggest way with the smallest action. He's a treasure, just like you are.

  24. Image for Carolyn Carolyn

    A thoughtful, kindhearted gift from a man who knows you well! Can't wait to see if all spiffed up and finished, it's just gorgeous! You are truly blessed!

  25. Image for Dorothy Ensz Dorothy Ensz

    Awww, KariAnne. You made my heart squeeze with this story. Because, you know, I had parents-in-law like these. Two beloved people who would do anything to make us happy. And, we lost our MIL just before Christmas, so, that's why my tears fell as I read this. So many wonderful people make lives complete.

  26. Image for Calypso in the Country Calypso in the Country

    How wonderful - and how lucky you are to have a relative who really gets you. Truly a special gift! Shelley

  27. Image for PJ PJ

    What a wonderful treasure! Isn't it great to have people in our lives who understand our love for vintage items? Happy New Year, KariAnne!

  28. Image for Ann Ann

    Love your memories my friend. What a sweet memorable gift! Can't wait to see the table when it's finished. Happy New Year!!

  29. Image for Katy Katy

    Okay, I need a tissue now. How glorious and comforting to have people in your life who do “get you”! I am smiling. A lovely start to the first full week of the New Year! How simply wonderful. That hubby of yours and his daddy are keepers! Hugs KariAnne! Katy

  30. Image for Denise Denise

    What a wonderful gift KariAnne, but the greatest gift is that your father-in-law "gets you." Being understood is truly the greatest gift of all. You are richly blessed!

  31. Image for Denise Schroeder Denise Schroeder

    I literally gasped when I saw these! My grandpa was a Star Route Mail Carrier. He picked up mail from 3 area post offices and delivered them to a 4th in a town nearby. One of the towns was where we grew up - so as luck would have it - Grandpa would stop by pretty regularly to pick up my brother or me to ride a long. We got to go in the back door of the post offices and help move what seemed to be giant canvas bags of mail into the back of his truck and then unload them when we got to the final destination. Pushing around those wobbly carts full of mail was so much fun and such an adventure!!. These vintage po boxes are a dream!! Thank you for sharing.

  32. Image for Donna Donna

    Makes me think of how long your FIL had this gift and how he anticipated your receiving this special gift. It probably gave him a laugh or two. Not everyone would appreciate it like you. It brings the word vintage up a notch or two.

  33. Image for Alice Hanson Alice Hanson

    KariAnne, what a great treasure! Your Pa is one of a kind! Looking forward to seeing the rest of your goodies. Plus your stories are just wonderful! Smiles, alice

  34. Image for Marlene Stephenson Marlene Stephenson

    What a wonderful gift and memory, have fun fixing it up, it will bring you joy for years to come.

  35. Image for PJ PJ

    Wow, what a beautiful thoughtful gift. It's truly a blessing to have someone in your life like that, but I bet you already know that. Can't wait to see what you do with it. You have all the keys too? Happy New Year and thank you for your posts that lift my spirits.

  36. Image for Colleen Colleen

    How beautiful, Karianne! You have a very special loving father in law and you are one lucky girl! In the small village I live in, we still go to the post office to get our mail, and have a key to unlock our little mailbox But, these are magnificent! I have never seen mailboxes as beautiful as these! 🥰

  37. Image for Sandi from the Cape Sandi from the Cape

    I fetch mail twice a week from boxes just like these here on the Cape! They're still in use! Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll put them up for sale when they think they find something better! Good for you!

  38. Image for Carol Carol

    Ummmm. I'd spent the last 33 years since I married my husband, opening our mailbox #156 until the tiny post office in the General Store was closed last August. I was sad to hand in my worn brass key that sometimes stuck in the lock when I was too much in a hurry. I miss it. Carol

  39. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Amazing! I remember those mailboxes too. Can not wait to see what you do with them. What a great Pa!

  40. Image for Delanie Delanie

    What a wonderful gift! I truly feel your excitement, wonder, and nostalgia over these mailboxes. I keep hoping to find an old card catalog from a library that is relatively affordable. I am, and always have been, a bibliophile. Some of my best memories are of time spent in libraries looking through the card catalog for books to either take me away or increase my knowledge. Books are my oldest friends and card catalogs are their “address books”! I have a birthday on Friday, so... maybe.... So happy for you! You have a wonderful gift in your father-in-law and your mailboxes!

  41. Image for Jennifer Dynys Jennifer Dynys

    I’m not usually a jealous person, but I am totally envious right now! Every time I drive past our small town post office, I peer in the windows to admire all of those beautiful old mailboxes! Every time I think, I have got to get some of those! Your father-in-law sounds like a treat! Happy New Year!❤️

  42. Image for Marilyn Marilyn

    What a lovely gift. You will treasure that for ever. Enjoy. Blessings and happiness to you and your family in the new year. Marilyn

  43. Image for Ann C Ann C

    30 boxes?! One for each day for a month! All the amazing things you can do with this! I’ve always admired them & thought someday.... but now I’m at a point in my life where I’m disposing of more and more and acquiring less and less. Now I live vicariously thru you knowing you will do wonderful things & it will bring me joy!

  44. Image for Barbara Barbara

    OMG I got goosebumps when I saw your pic. My grandfather made me a bank with one of those old postboxes and I treasured it until we had a house fire and it burnt up. You made me tear up but good tears not ugly ones.😂 Enjoy your gift!

  45. Image for Carolyn Carolyn

    I am so happy for you. What a wonderful gift! I would love to have a gift like that. Would definitely use it to put as many as my art supplies in as I could. You are so blessed to have such a dear father -in in-law. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

  46. Image for Theresa Ball Theresa Ball

    A long time ago in the early 70's a friend went to First Monday in Canton. She returned with a piggy bank made out of just 1 of those wonderful post office boxes. The door was the front of the bank, encased on 3 sides in a beautiful wood with the slot cut in the top for the coins. You were able to get to your savings by using the combination of the box (penciled on the back of the door). At my pleading, she returned the following month with my money to purchase 2 for my husband and father-in-law for Christmas. As I write this I am looking at our piggy bank. My son inherited the other bank when my FIL passed away. You will definitely enjoy the wall of post office boxes!

  47. Image for Carrie p Carrie p

    So envious!! Have looked at single ones but have never seen a complete set! Looking forward to how you use them.

  48. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    What a lovely gift... and so special that it came from a sweet father-in-law. That's the biggest blessing, and I know you know that, KA! Hugs!

  49. Image for Botanic Bleu Botanic Bleu

    KariAnne, Your Christmas gift of vintage Post Office brass mailboxes reminded me of the small post office in the little town in which I grew up in Alabama. The town had a population of 500-600 with its own tiny post office on an equally tiny plot of land that was in one corner of my family's small corner lot that contained our family home and a free-standing garage. The post office was in the tiny corner of land adjoining our lot that backed up to our garage. The post office had small individual postal boxes the shape and size of yours, but were made of wood and brass with combination locks. Visitors to the post office pulled into the small gravel parking lot located under the shade tree that separated our back grassy lawn from the post office property. We saw everyone coming and going. Several townspeople walked daily to the post office to get their mail. The most memorable were the never-married Bartee sisters who lived in their old family 2-story historic home and walked arm-and-arm to the post office each day, wearing cotton dresses, straw hats, and lace-trimmed ankle socks in flat shoes. I'm not sure how old the Bartee sisters were, but think they must have been at least in their 60s. My sister and I have always talked about the Bartees and now compare ourselves to them. I remember getting our mail every day from the post office mail box that was just steps from our back door. Your Christmas present mailboxes brought vivid memories of the old post office, its location, and its visitors to my mind in a flash. Looking forward to seeing your new/old side table. Judith

  50. Image for Deb in Oklahoma Deb in Oklahoma

    Wow. He really knocked it out of the ballpark with this on. The details on all those tiny little doors! The star! The alphabet! The Greek key! This will be a fun project--I can't wait to see it.

  51. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    What a great gift and what a wonderful father- in-law!! So happy for you. I can only imagine the joy when you saw this. Happy New Year to you and your lovely family!

  52. Image for Linda Meents Linda Meents

    I’ve been following you for a very long time and one of my favorite things is when you reveal what your brother or sister made you for Christmas! Such heartwarming gifts!

  53. Image for Karen Miller Karen Miller

    Wow! How cool! I picture this as a FABULOUS ChrIstmas Advent Calendar!! So cool to have others who know you so well and help you collect awesome objects. Can’t wait to see what this becomes!

  54. Image for Patricia Budai Patricia Budai

    WOWZA, just WOWZA! You are blessed, in oh so many ways. Such a thoughtful gift from a loving FIL who knows you so well. For many years my father was a mail carrier and then the Postmaster in the little town of Dayton, Oregon. When he retired I found him a single post office box that had been made into a bank. Its sides are beautiful oak and a brass slot is on top. Many of the old post office boxes had a dial, where the key is on your array. Remembering the combination could be a challenge. I too have wonderful memories of walking to the post office, after school, then hitching a ride home with Dad. I look forward to seeing your finished project. Happy New Year to you and your family. May it be filled with love, health, joy and peace.

  55. Image for Donnie Donnie

    What an utterly delightful gift! You are the envy of a lot of us. Enjoy. Cannot wait to see what your creative mind will do to make this the most remarkable side table EVER! Merry Christmas to you, for sure.

  56. Image for Denise Denise

    I use to get mail from the smallest Post office in Olema California. It looked like yours except it wasn't painted. When they closed that p.o. they said the boxes were going to the Smithsonian. I don't think that there were 50 boxes. Denise

  57. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I love this so much. Both the gift and that the giver gets you. Priceless. It reminds me of my childhood days of walking to our little post office and turning the dial to open that mailbox each day to get our mail. Hadn't thought about those memories in years! And, my marketing prowess was not as amazing as yours in making it a delivery job! How genius! Can't wait to see that finished piece and hear about your other gifts. Happy New Year, friend!

  58. Image for Yvette Yvette

    Love it, love him, and love the beautiful memories it brought back to you. I remember riding my bike to a little tiny post office to get the mail, too. You made me smile and remember something special. ♥️

  59. Image for Toni Toni

    Well I'd say you hit the jackpot with your father-in-law who "got you"!!! So fun and such a fun connection to your life. Isn't it amazing the little things that sing "memories" to our hearts?! Very special! I'd been waiting for this segment of your Christmas posts!

  60. Image for Marian Marian

    Oh, Karianne, thank you for sharing your gift and your story. You are a very fortunate woman. It is nice when our loved ones really "get us." I can't wait to see the finished product! When you spoke of riding your bike in the summer, it instantly brought memories of riding my bike during the summer. Those were such innocent times. Thank you again.

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