Mailable … or Not

Posted in Figuratively Speaking, Life in general, On writing, Press at 7:37 am by Marion


There’s no doubt about it … if we followed rules issued by the U.S. Postal Service 100 years ago today, many of us would never open another letter. Maybe not even a bill …

The U.S. Postal Service declared that

Every obscene, lewd, or lascivious book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character … is hereby declared to be nonmailable matter.

These days, that covers just about anything worth sending — or receiving. My Rolling Stone magazines violate just about every provision above, and I’m a pretty conservative gal. Who knows what other folks are reading.

Of course these mail standards at some time would have also included Madame Bovary, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita and Grapes of Wrath.

Which brings me to the observation that in some ways prompted today’s entry — at the grocery store a couple of days ago, I ran into my former mail carrier, whose name is Bob. He has a remarkable memory … and is a genuinely nice guy.

He works in the university community here and has walked the same route for decades (he was also my postal carrier in the early 1990s).

As we were talking, he mentioned that though he’s in the same area, his routes and those of others he works with are experiencing considerable shifting and reworking because the mail volume is off so sharply. Advertisers aren’t sending us so much junk mail (a good thing for us) … but for the Postal Service, that junk mail decrease translates into lost business.

Folks just don’t send letters anymore, and we even pay our bills online.

It reminded me of when I was a little girl, growing up deep in the countryside of Edgecombe County … with corn fields in front of me … tobacco fields behind me … and mom’s daylilies farm everywhere else.

Each week in the summer, my days were unstructured and dreamy as I read novel after novel, discovered Edgar Poe and Jane Eyre; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; biographies and dinosaurs.

In those days we had only one or two TV channels and magazines and other junk culture were not pervasive, at least not in Edgecombe County.

The highlight of those summer days … the clearest joyful moment in those sun-washed hours … came when I made the trip across the street to the mailbox. For inside would possibly be a letter from a pen-pal; a rare ordered item; or, best of all, My Weekly Reader.


That four-page newsprint reader brought me such happiness and opened so many doors of my imagination. It had simple stories about far-off places, games and puzzles and suggestions for activities. I was always a little sad when I had finished reading every word … and the hopeful waiting began for the next issue.

And it came in a mailbox.

BE SURE TO LISTEN today at noon to the Down East Journal on Public Radio East for a Figuratively Speaking commentary!

Thanks today to Jeffrey Kacirk for his calendar, Forgotten English, which gives FD such food for thought each day.


  1. Gene-o said,

    March 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

    My goodness! You are up early today and feeling nostalgic.

    Enjoyed the post. Did not receive My Weekly Reader but always looked forward to “Jack & Jill” (a mag for pre-teens) and, later, “People Magazine,” in the mail. And remember Scholastic Books? I think those were delivered to the teacher, who distributed them to students — but it was like a mail call.

    Sigh … good times!

  2. Marion said,

    March 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Who would have thought we’d remember them so fondly … now I see they had true value.

    One time at a Scholastic Book sale I bought so many books that it was the talk of the school! I had an armful … I thought everyone would have so many!! They were all old-fashioned scary books as I remember … yes, good times!!

  3. Fiction Daily » Blog Archive » Mailable … or Not | FictionArea.Com said,

    March 6, 2009 at 8:34 pm

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