Our Mailbox Symbolizes Victory
Moving into our house was a battle. The small grey structure was filled with someone else’s belongings, decorated in the 1970s, and full of spiders, ladybugs, and mouse carcasses.
After months of cleaning, repairing, and painting, we finally arrived at a point where all our spare time wasn’t just put into house projects. But even after we finished the inside, there were still several sheds full of rusty tools, and a faulty old mailbox to deal with.
The mailbox, perched on the lower arm of a massive F-shaped post, was visible all the way down the street. It was gray and rusted, weather worn from years of Michigan weather and dust from our gravel road. And it was no longer watertight, so every time it rained, our mail became soggy and waterlogged. Finally, after months of frustration and ruined mail, Curtis bought a new mailbox. It was a shiny black with a racy red flag.
One cold day after work in early November, he gathered the tools and the new mailbox and went out to the street to replace the old one. It took him more than an hour to pry the old mailbox off the post and screw the new one on, and it was dark by the time he came inside with numb fingers.
But he didn’t mind his stiff hands. He was victorious.
After all, like he had with so many other challenges in the past six months, he conquered the mailbox. And for a year, it served its purpose well, a safe, dry drop-off point for envelopes and small parcels.
Until this week
When I left for work in the winter darkness of early morning a few days ago, I didn’t notice anything amiss. But as I turned onto our road, coming home in the cloudy afternoon light, I saw something — or, didn’t see something.
Our mailbox, usually a vivid black stamp on the landscape, wasn’t on the post. I rolled slowly up the road until I came to our driveway, where our mailbox,
was on the ground next to the road, where some hoodlum left it after knocking it off with a bat or rod.
I stopped my car and stared at the beaten black metal with a heart full of gravel.
Replacing a mailbox, in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal. But to me, our mailbox was more than just a shiny canister.
It was the symbol of a six-month battle we’d fought and won with our house and land. It was the memories of cleaning and repairs late into the night, spilling a gallon of paint on the floor, having exhausted fights in the backyard, and making every new discovery of something broken or malfunctioning.
But black, shiny, and very functional, our mailbox was a sign that our house hadn’t defeated us.
I left the mangled piece of metal on the ground. I didn’t have the energy to pick it up.
Part of me wanted to leave it there so people would know that we were the victims of thoughtless vandalism. At least if it was there, people would know we were trying. Picking it up and leaving the post standing alone felt like admitting defeat.
Thankfully, a few days out, I have taken off my idealistic rose-colored glasses and can understand that a smashed mailbox doesn’t take away our victory in taming this little grey house.
No matter if we live here for the next 5 years or the next 50, overcoming the obstacles will always be part of our story. And that matters more than our mailbox.
But all the same, I hope our future mailboxes don’t get smashed. It’s a very violating feeling.