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 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.
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. 🙂