As a child, I almost never got mail. I was always interested to see what the postman (and they always were men in those days) brought. Finding something addressed to me was a rare occurrence. I wanted to get mail. I don’t remember if anyone ever told me, “Be careful what you wish for,” but I’m pretty sure I did say something to that effect to one or more of my children in the same situation.
As an adult, I get mail. Plenty of mail. Every day. The advent of email has helped cut down on the volume of paper, but I am not lacking for mail, either paper or electronic. Much of the USPS mail goes directly into recycling, a minor annoyance that takes only a few moments. Even less so to delete junk email.
Some of the mail is welcomed, especially cards and other personal notes. Much of it, however, keeps me mindful of adult responsibilities. It often has task assignments. Stuff of which I was blissfully ignorant as a child.
There are things from childhood I don’t miss and would never want to relive. But, at best, my parents provided a shield from many of the cares, frustrations and anxieties of life. I never had to give any thought to getting the furnace repaired or a clogged water pipe opened up. I don’t think I even knew about tax returns. They provided another layer of protection from “the real world,” on top of a child’s naivete.
Of course, I wasn’t completely oblivious to everything going on in the world, and I had my share of childhood concerns and stress. But none of this kept me awake at night. Not even when I was in the fifth grade with a teacher who was overly-demanding. I can remember being on my way to sleep at night when memories of the day or anxiety about tomorrow would creep in. I was able to imagine my bed floating above the classroom as I said: Sorry, I’m in bed now. I’ve never, as an adult, been able to dismiss concerns so easily.
There’s a tendency among some people to romanticize the past. To use selective memory to create a fictitious “good ol’ days.” I subscribe to the Will Rogers quote: “Things ain’t what they used to be and never were.” Still there are good memories along with the less-than-good ones. And while missing something doesn’t mean wanting to go back to it, there are things I miss.
It’s the innocence I remember fondly. I miss not getting much mail.