Not at this address

“Not at this address”

But I am!  I am at this address.  I am residing at the address to which this important piece of mail was directed. Not once, but two times the woman at the desk asked me to verify my home of record and the address to which I wanted the renewed license delivered.  I was provided with a temporary – good for 30 days.

When I was young, we had a traditional mailbox.  It was metal, DSCN2485vintagepaperboxesweathered pewter color with the family name and address painted on both sides in the artistic script of my sign-painting uncles.  Mounted on a post of rough, but precisely measured timber, it served as receptacle for penny postcards and 4-cent first-class missives delivered by a rural route mail carrier.  Airmail was even more expensive. Christmas packages meant the postal carrier took a little detour up our gravel drive and knocked on the kitchen door.  We got to know our mailman by name. As times changed with inevitable postal increases, we placed a canning jar lid in the mailbox – upside down. This lid was for additional postage due.  For pennies and nickels on those occasions a friend or relative shipped us a package that was a bit too fat or weighty for the stamps attached.  Our mailman delivered anyway and we just put the change out next day.

When I became an adult, things were a bit more complex. Neighborhoods had grown and folks seemed to move more often. It was possible to receive a piece of mail for someone who previously lived in your house.  If you recognized the name, you simply wrote, “moved” or “please forward” on the envelope and put it back out.  The mail carrier would take care of forwarding it.  Postal persons have vacations and days off just like normal people and substitute carriers can get a bit confused.  On the rare occasions a letter addressed to someone else got stuck to your bundle, you simply walked across the street and placed it in the right mailbox or mail drop or courteously knocked on their door and got to know your neighbor better.

Nowadays the free-standing individual mailbox is rare.  Gone too the mail drop in urban doors.  Security, you know. On our street we have a stack of numbered boxes on a pole, each of the boxes with an individual key. One of the boxes has a slot for outgoing mail, but none have a slot for in-coming. Those times we get mail in our box for some other street address we simply put it back in the outgoing slot to be redelivered. But that is not what happened with my driver’s license.

I watched the mailbox diligently for 30 days. Mail came and went. We received personal letters.  We received bills.  We received junk mail.  We received business mail for each of my roommate’s three grown children.  We accepted letters for two other individuals who used to room here. I attempted to call the driver’s license bureau for Colorado and found I had to go back down to the agency and wait in line to address my issue.  I took a number. I communicated the problem.  The helpful young man verified again that the address on my temporary license (which was now expired) was correct. He conferenced with a supervisor.  They went back to the database.  Bingo! This flag just in. My license was returned to the post office as undeliverable. “It will take about a week for it to get back here,” said the supervisor.  “Try back next Tuesday.”

Tuesday came.  I waited in line.  I waited through a concentrated team search.  Nothing. “Try back after 3:30.  That’s when the mail comes.”  I returned 20 minutes before closing time, 42 days after renewal, and there was my license.  Correctly addressed to the place I reside.  Neatly printed across the front by an unknown neighbor, “Not at this Address.” No.  I am not at their address.  The mail was obviously miss-delivered.  Would it not have been better to simply put the envelope back in the out-going slot?  I am, in fact, at the address on the envelope.

A Tale of Two Books

Birthdays are the best of times when your primary gifters are bibliophiles and the package arrives on your birthday.  My parents will gift me – usually money – since I am known to be picky; but my Brother and Sister-in-law, consummate gift givers, inevitably send a book – as does my cousin.

We are readers, thinkers, cerebral. We trade ideas.  Theirs are stronger. I usually lose.  Except when it is my birthday or Christmas and then I reel in the catch. Not one, but two books this year.  Two books arrived right on the day.

I opened them hastily and devoured the note. “Happy Birthday, Cherry, Signature was a pleasant surprise to me…Though science wasn’t the the focus, she (Elizabeth Gilbert) had an impressive grasp on the field….Hope the other one is good.  Women at King’s English love it.”

Almost reverently, I opened the cover of The Signature of All Things, and began reading immediately. It was my Friday, so reading irresponsibly was an option. Good thing I had flexible time, because it was a page-turner. I had to agree with my S-I-L, “It pulled me in, pushed me away, called me back…” Deftly written, with succinct word choice, I got just enough character sketch to profoundly understand the players. Fully enlightened with authentic Victorian vocabulary, social customs, sexuality, ideals and intellectual thought, the writer takes an epic anthropological and historical safari through Darwinism, abolitionism, 19th century religion, and nods forward to Freud’s eventual analysis of human relationships.

Next day I met my cousin for lunch. She handed me a gift bag commenting something about the women in her book club and reminding me I could exchange the book if I already had it. I never exchange books, I just gift them on to someone else. I knew I had not read it, but the cover looked vaguely familiar, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Back in my room I continued my mesmerizing read of Signature.  There were times I wept and times I wanted with everything in me to resist the inexorable magnetism toward penultimate redemption, to hope against hope for a relational ending different than the inevitable.  Abruptly, came a moment of suspense. Page 344 was followed by page 377.  Unannounced cliff-hanger! Idly, I toyed with the idea of turning to the second book. But this would not do.  Signature, is the type of book that stays with you, lives in your head while you go about your work and play.  Nevertheless, I unsheathed the other book. Sure enough, it was twin to the one in the gift bag from my cousin. I switched off the light and fell asleep.

For the next few days, I took a reader’s hiatus.  Summer being the busy season at work, there is not much opportunity for reading once you allow for overtime.

Following work one evening, I grabbed a quick dinner to go and stopped at Barnes Noble intending to find and read the missing 33 pages. There on the bargain shelf – for under $6.00 – was the book I sought. Hearing my story of missing pages, the clerk surmised that was the reason for the crate of hasty discounts.  We checked the pages.  Intact. What is the harm in purchasing a duplicate book? Already, I knew it to be the most well-written book of the decade – though not my favorite.

And that is how there came to be duplicates of two very good reads on my nightstand.
And that is how there came to be duplicates of two very good reads on my nightstand.

Yesterday was a holiday. I opened The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry at 5:00 pm.  I closed it at 11:15 pm.  I am not sorry I own two copies.  One will go on loan immediately.

Have you read these two books?  You should.  Immediately. Which shall I loan you first?