By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Some say life is a complicated journey, but, for the most part, it can be categorized by the type of mail you get. At any given time, your mail carrier knows more about your current life status than most of your cousins do. Here’s how it breaks down:
Phase 1: The “Give me a little credit” phase
When I turned 18 and moved to college, I got my first mailbox, a tiny metal cube nestled into a row of dozens of other mailboxes in my freshman dorm. I loved this little box because it was mine. Not my mom or dad’s. Just mine. When I opened it, I felt like a bona fide Grown Up doing adult things like leafing through a stack of mail.
At first, the mail was mostly pizza delivery coupons and cards from my mom. But then the credit card companies realized I had my own tiny mailbox along with naïve, underdeveloped judgement, and they started sending offers for shiny plastic cards to be used for my shopping and dining pleasure. Finally, I was a Grown Up with a mailbox and a Visa. (The mathematical reality of interest rates and minimum payments had not yet occurred to me.)
Phase 2: The “Going to the Chapel” phase
Right after college, the mailbox filled with wedding invitations – thick envelopes made of high-quality paper, beautifully lettered, requesting the “honor of my presence to celebrate the marriage of blah-blah-blah.” Always a sucker for a slice of wedding cake, I loved going to friends’ weddings and didn’t even mind using the credit card from Phase 1 to buy yet another bridesmaid dress. I’d nod when the bride said I could shorten the dress and wear it again (even though no one ever does this). I knew I’d say the same thing when it was my turn to go to the chapel.
Phase 3: The “Oh Baby” phase
A few years later, the wedding invitations tapered off and the baby shower invitations rained down regularly. A few months after the shower invitations and thank-you notes for baby gifts arrived, I received birth announcements and cooed over the swaddled newborn as I walked down the driveway, rubbing my own swelling baby bump in anticipation.
Phase 4: The “Happy Birthday to Everyone” phase
For the first decade after birth announcements arrived, my mailbox received a regular round of kids’ birthday party invitations. I often wondered which envelope was harder to swallow – the ridiculous cable bill or the brightly-colored invitation that meant I’d be spending another Saturday morning at Chuck E. Cheese, trying to keep our toddler from putting his hands in his mouth after touching every sticky surface in the building.
Phase 5: The “College Courtship” phase
Once our oldest “baby” had 17 birthdays (and built up his immunity by surviving multiple trips to Chuck E. Cheese), his stack of mail began to dwarf our own. Our family is smack dab in the middle of Phase 5. Lately our mailbox is crammed full of glossy brochures, postcards and information packets from colleges and universities – some with fancy names and some we never knew existed.
Ironically, at the same time these colleges started flooding our mailbox, AARP started putting the full-court press on me and Tom – a harsh reminder that our kid’s adult life is just beginning and ours? Well, we’re about to get a new discount, if we’re not too embarrassed to claim it.
I wonder what phase the mailbox has in store for us next. College acceptance letters, I hope? Then will the process start over once our friends’ adult children start getting married and having babies?
Or will we just be deluged with more of those incomprehensible “explanation of benefits” letters that the insurance company seems to send us once every 15 minutes. Maybe we’ll get offers for motorized awnings or hip replacements.
And maybe a year from now, we’ll get a letter from our family’s new Grown Up telling us he has been given a mailbox of his very own. Let the phases begin.