“Because now I am waiting for the mail,” said Frog.
“But there will not be any,” said Toad.
“Oh, yes there will,” said Frog, “because I have sent you a letter.”
. . .
Then Frog and Toad went out onto the front porch to wait for the mail.
They sat there, feeling happy together.
from: Frog and Toad are Friends
by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, 1970
My dad was a philatelist, a stamp collector. I love that fancy word. He kept lots of organized piles of stamps and envelopes and bowls of water with stamps soaking in them on the dining room table and the side table in the dining room, on the kitchen counter, pretty much any flat surface, pretty much during my whole childhood.
When I wrote my first letter, the stamp cost five cents. Of course, my parents encouraged me. It was their nickel, I’m sure, that bought my first stamp.
I had a wonderful first grade teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman. Since I started school in January, in a school system that accommodated my November birthday, she knew I had already had a semester of first grade when I entered her class the following September. She knew I could spell c-a-t and my math skills were on par with other first graders. She let me be her helper in a way that made me feel important and not so special that the other kids felt jealous. How did she do that?
I sometimes visited her after school when I was in second grade. And then she moved away. Somewhere far. She told me she was still going to teach children how to read and count and play nicely with each other. We could write letters, she told me. Another new experience for me from Mrs. Zimmerman.
She wrote her address on a piece of paper and tasked me with the first letter. I could tell her all about third grade. What I liked to do, how my piano lessons were going, where I rode my bike. She assured me she would write back.
I don’t remember what I said in that first letter, but we exchanged plenty of letters during my third grade. I printed her address in my best hand on the front of an envelope and folded my letter to fit. In those days we licked the gluey stamp-back to get it to stick to the envelope. I did not mind the minty-ish taste.
Then I must have gotten too busy. The letters I wrote got shorter and farther apart. Until they stopped altogether. Mrs. Zimmerman might still be alive in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, or maybe she moved again or maybe not. Her influence lives on, though.
This feels like a great time to write letters to my grandkids. Even though stamps have lost their minty-ish glue and even though they cost almost ten times what they did when I was a kid, there’s nothing like receiving a letter in the mail with a real stamp.