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I grew up in a small town.  When I was a little girl, the mailman bounded up the front steps to slip our mail in the little black box hanging beside the door.  I knew his name, and Mom and I always gave him a little something warm around Christmastime.  I would sit on the swing, Mom would open her mail, and he would hop over to the neighbor’s front porch.

When I turned 10, we moved to a bigger small town, and our mailbox moved from the front porch to the bottom of a steep, winding driveway.  I never saw the delivery person, but her 4-wheel drive left ruts in the dirt. When it was cold out, Mom let me drive her car to check the mail.

When I was 16, we moved to an apartment in the city.  And our mailbox moved again.  This time it had a home among a row of sterile locked boxes.

At 18, I moved to The University of Alabama.  Once again, my mailbox was lost among a sea of boxes.  But these boxes were old-fashioned, golden post office boxes, which endeared them to me.  I checked my mailbox regularly at first, but soon figured out that it was pointless because no one ever sent me any mail.  So I joined Columbia House.

I had heard of email; the University gave me an address upon my enrollment, but I only checked it twice in 3.5 years.  My first message was a welcome to the UA system.  The second message was an invitation to buy stock in an internet travel agency.  I couldn’t even imagine how that would work, so I deleted it.

Karl and I married.  Our first home was a tiny apartment.  TI-NY, but that’s beside the point.  We had to walk uphill to check our mailbox.  I remember going to check the mail one day about a week or two after birthing Hannah.  We hadn’t been outside since our homecoming, and I decided that we were up for the walk to the mailbox.  I was wrong.  The short walk took every ounce of energy I had and it jiggled Hannah so much that she spit up all over me as soon as I walked in the door.

Karl and I bought a house many, many years ago.  I finally have a “real” mailbox again.  I know my mailman’s name because he, my mom, aunts and uncles, all graduated from high school together — it’s a small world after all.  When we have too much mail to put in the box, he comes to the door and asks, “How’s the family?”

All that to say, checking mail has been a highlight of my day for as long as I can recall.  And it’s especially fun these days because I can check an electronic mailbox that almost always contains a surprise from a reader.  I look forward to your message.  Look for my reply in your mailbox.