by Ann Ipock
What happens when a new family moves into your neighborhood and you don’t welcome them “properly” with a gift of homemade brownies, cookies, muffins or cake?
I’ll tell you one possibility: That neighbor might ask if you’ve considered replacing your rusting, dented mailbox, which is within inches of his nice, freshly painted one. That’s a true story that happened to me, humorous yet embarrassing, laughable and understandable.
One morning, Russell, my better half, came into the house after retrieving the newspaper (the holder is attached below our mailbox), and said our new neighbors had planted some pretty flowers in that area. I couldn’t resist giving Russell a hard time, asking him what type of flowers since he doesn’t know the difference between a magnolia and a marigold.
He said, “Oh, I don’t know, daffodils or gardenias or something.”
I told him daffodils come from bulbs and gardenias are bushes, but he just shrugged.
Sure enough! Russell was right — as far as there being bright, lush, colorful new flowers hugging our mailbox post. I went out and inspected our newfound treasure the next day. There were lovely fuchsia and white petunias planted into a tight, neat circle under both of our mailboxes, ours and the neighbors’.
I thought to myself, I’ll bake them something and go over and thank them for such a wonderful gesture. I had already met Matt, the husband, in the driveway before the planting, but hadn’t met his wife. But you know how time flies and how busy we get?
Several weeks passed; then today I was outside and saw Matt doing yardwork. He waved, and I walked over to speak. After a few moments of conversation, he asked me what I thought of the mailbox area.
At first I wasn’t sure what he meant, having totally forgotten about the flowers. I glanced over — then covered my mouth in embarrassment. “Oh! Thank you! Please forgive my manners. I forgot to say how great the flowers look!” I even told him the story about Russell and his confused botanical vocabulary, which I thought was hysterical.
Matt merely nodded without too much enthusiasm and said, “But what do you think of the area?” I repeated that I thought it was lovely and that the plants were blooming nicely — all the time thinking, What else can I say about this? I was a little dumbfounded.
I could see the perplexed look coming across Matt’s face. He added, “I mean, what about YOUR mailbox? We were thinking maybe you would want to replace it.”
Yikes! He was right! He hit the nail on the head, or should I say he hit “the rust on the mailbox” (which, I must say, only recently formed). The mailbox hasn’t always been an eyesore. Embarrassed, I told Matt we had noticed recently the mailbox’s demise and had discussed buying a new one, just hadn’t been out to do it. He even offered to get one for us. “Oh, no, but thanks,” I said. He had done enough already.
Here’s the thing: At one time, we had the prettiest mailbox on the street. We bought a brand new white metal box a few years back and I sponge-painted it an attractive shade of royal blue. Then we added ceramic house numbers which were quite expensive, as I remember. Dad helped with that project, as he attached the numbers to a small, custom plaque which he painted white. Then Russell screwed the plaque onto the mailbox, and finished the project by painting the post with a fresh coat of white paint.
I remember the day well. We were filled with pride and honor as we both stood back and admired our attractive new creation. Next thing we knew, another neighbor moved in and she put up a lovely new mailbox with a painted bird on it. Then, a neighbor planted a gorgeous Confederate jasmine vine. Not that I started this new trend or anything, but I did kind of pat myself on the back for bringing the neighborhood mail receptacle representation up to par!
At that point I even prided myself as the Postal Queen. Who knows? Maybe I’m the one who got everyone to hire landscape gardeners, fertilizer contractors and lawn services? Since now it seems everyone’s yards look better than ours!
But back to the mailbox.
Talk about embarrassed. Talk about walking away with my tail between my legs. Talk about not calling the kettle black but, rather, calling the mailbox trash — I said those exact words when I called Russell at work. “Our mailbox is trash.” He said he tried to warn me several weeks ago when I hit the mailbox for the 45th time with my car’s side view mirror, causing the 45th dent.
Hey, no one said the box has to be perfectly symmetrical — only that the mail has to be able to fit inside, and it does. Don’t even bother asking me what my side view mirror looks like. Let’s just say we need a can of white paint (for the mailbox) and a can of red paint (for the car).
I’m headed to Charlotte tomorrow for some book signings, but I hereby promise Matt, my other neighbors, the mailman, and the postmaster that when I return I will replace my tacky mailbox with a brand new one. If this doesn’t end up being an all-day project, I might even find some time to bake some brownies!
Leaving Plane Phobia Behind
Sushi in the South
Salute to SouthMouth
Ann is a biweekly humor columnist with the Georgetown Times, South Carolina’s oldest newspaper.
Whether we are hearing about Ann’s unspeakable accident—the time she got the mayor’s mustache caught up in her dental hygiene polisher, her view on prissy Southern women who actually resort to toothpicks after meals—(those thick fake nails just can’t possibly remove spinach from one’s front teeth), or her frustration with sticking to a budget—the normally-$100 supper club night she hosted which turned into a $2400 remodeling job (blame it on the new carpet), we can only think of one thing to say, “Tell us more!”
Life Is Short, But It’s Wide (In the Southern State of Reality) is Ann’s second book of humor columns. Published by Carolina Avenue Press, the book was released in September, 2003. Her first book was entitled What Was It I Was Saying? She is a regular contributor to Sasee Magazine, and she also writes for Pee Dee Magazine, Strand, and Gateway Publications. She is active in community theatre, where her favorite role to date was that of Truvy Jones in Steel Magnolias. Her day job consists of being a home-based, self-employed medical transcriptionist for twelve years.
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