Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Story

Something you probably didn’t know about me : Years ago, I was a rural mailman. Yup, that’s right, I drove forgotten highways and dirt, country roads, delivering mail when I was in my early 20s. I was just a “substitute”, but my regular carrier had a terrible accident, leaving me to carry the mail full time for over a year.

A small portion of my mail route was in town, and at the tail end of the day I would arrive on Collins Street, at the home of Gladys. Gladys was a crotchety old thing, 98 years old, widowed more than 20 years. 
Before she married, Gladys was a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse. A large part of her salary was her room and board with one of the students’ family. She wouldn’t see her parents or siblings during the school year, as there were no automobiles readily available. Most people still traveled by horseback at that time in this part of the country. Gladys married and continued teaching for many, many years. She and her husband never had any children of their own.

After her husband died, Gladys spent the next couple of decades watching everyone she knew pass before her. All of her siblings, many of her nieces and nephews. Gladys outlived them all. In the early 1990s, Gladys (at 98), was still driving herself once a week downtown to have her hair washed and set and to pick up her groceries.

Gladys’ house had a stooped front porch and paved walk to the roadside mailbox. She was notorious at the post office where I worked, because of her propensity for telling off the clerks if her mail was wet or mishandled. She routinely hated her mailmen (or women) and wasn’t afraid to call in to chew out whoever was lucky enough to answer the phone that day.One cold, snowy day, I stopped at Gladys’ house to deliver her paper. I paused at the mailbox, but I couldn’t see how she was going to make it out to get her mail as her walk was already packed and slick. So I put my little red Ford Ranger in park and walked Gladys’ mail up to her front porch and placed it inside the screen, out of the weather. I knocked and left to finish my route.

A few days later, in better weather, Gladys was waiting for me at the mailbox. She wanted to thank me for bringing her mail to the house. (She also wanted to gripe about the “other one” for a while. HA!) But I knew a kindred spirit when I saw one. She was no nonsense, and full of spunk, and not afraid to speak her mind. From then on, whenever it was raining or especially cold, I walked Gladys’ mail to her door.
The week of Christmas I got in from my route to find the postal clerks waiting for me, one grinning from ear to ear and the other a little awestruck. He was holding a giant red box of chocolates and a Christmas card. From Gladys. My 98 year old friend had driven her 1973 Buick to the post office that day to deliver a gift. To me.

She wanted to make sure the “other one” didn’t get it by mistake if she left it in the box. Heh.

They never let me live that one down, but I gained a lot more than my coworker’s respect that day. Gladys & I were solid buddies for the next two years. I quit carrying the mail a few months later, but I would stop by and see her now and then, and she would call me at home to check in.

She sent me Christmas cards. I took my baby (and later toddler) boy to see her. Gladys was a bit uneasy around babies. It was funny to watch her nervousness. It was a wondrous experience to be the knowledgeable one; she was easily four times my age.
There was a party in town when she turned 100. I missed it, because I was having another baby and wrapped up in my own difficult life at the time. Gladys died shortly thereafter.

I’ll always be sad that I hadn’t been good about visiting, and I never got to say goodbye, but I never forgot about her either. Gladys had outlived all of her family and friends. We talked about it once, and she was rather matter of fact about her longevity. Frankly, she was tired of being alone and ready to move on to better things.

Still, I always think of her at Christmas time, and of an unlikely friendship forged between a 23 year old young mother and a 98 year old former schoolteacher. And how we found common ground over a great big box of chocolate.

Merry Christmas, Gladys. I know you’re watching over me and smiling tonight. Just don’t grade my grammar too tough, ok?

And the angel said unto them, Fear not:
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;

Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.

20 comments:

  1. Absolutely lovely Ang- you brought tears to my eyes. Funny how we always tend to benefit the most when we think we are helping others.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Give Stella some kissed from my hound pack. g

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  2. What a wonderful, heart warming story! Merry Christmas!

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  3. This is such a beautiful story.
    Such wonderful memories.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story, it is an excellent reminder to us all of the angels watching over us every day. Merry Christmas, you sweet angel!

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  5. *sniff* What a great story. Thanks for sharing. Merry christmas to you and your family.

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  6. You have a way with words - I felt like I was right there with you, chatting with Gladys. I'm not surprised you had such an effect on her though, you are a very special person.

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  7. What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for reminding me what is really important. Merry Christmas to you and your family – and to Gladys.

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  8. I really enjoyed your charming heartfelt story--than you for sharing! :) I hope that you are enjoying Christmas and that you will have a prosperous New Year!

    Rose in SV

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  9. Jen M2:26 PM

    What a sweet, sweet story! Everyone should have a Gladys in their life! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  10. A beautiful story - thank you for sharing.

    I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas with your family.

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  11. Merry Chirstmas, girlie. I hope the weather didn't keep the kiddos out too late and I hope you're all having a great Christmas Day together!

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  12. I read your blog on a regular basis and enjoy it so much!! I am bad about commenting, but I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed your story about Gladys. Your blog is always food for the soul. Thank you

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  13. What a lovely story!

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  14. Oh, that's such a heart warming story! I hope you had a lovely day yesterday.

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  15. What a neat (and well-written :) ) story!!! Thanks so much for sharing it! I enjoyed it very much!

    And just in case I didn't use enough...!!!
    :)

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  16. What a lovely story Angie - thanks for sharing it with us x

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  18. I'm a little behind on my blog reading,but I just read this and just loved it! Thanks so much for sharing this.

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