You can learn a lot about someone from what comes in the mail.
I remember the little heart flip of excitement when an envelope in that distinctive aqua came through our mail slot about seven years ago. Tiffany’s! I was curious, what did Tiffany want to share with me, a single mom living paycheck to paycheck, with no rich mate nor one in sight? I went page by page through the small catalog, enjoying the window shopping. It was only as I went to place it in my recycling bin that I saw it was not addressed to me, but to my son, then in middle school or high school, I forget which. Though I never asked him, I assumed that my overly brand-conscious son had gotten a gift for a girlfriend from there (I prayed more on the order of a key ring than something even more expensive).
While my son’s in grad school and living in his own place for this last school year, a lot of his mail still comes here. I can’t help but compare his mail to my own.
His: Tiffany catalog.
Mine: Catalog I buy granny panties from.
His: Random auto dealership wanting him to test drive a new BMW.
Mine: My auto dealership begging me to come in for overdue 10-year maintenance.
His: Budding international relations expert gets The Economist and Foreign Affairs. Men’s Health reminds me my boy’s now a man.
Mine: Spiritually seeking woman in perpetual existential crisis gets O The Oprah Magazine and Whole Living. AARP Bulletin reminds me I’m over the hill.
His: Preapproved credit cards (identity thieves reading this, don’t get excited, and stay away from my trash bin: I shred them, with his blessing).
Mine: Statements from my bank telling me how much I owe them for going into my checking account overdraft protection this month.
His: J. Crew catalogs speak to his preppy clothes-horsiness.
Mine: Plus-size clothing speaks to my big butt.
His: Invitations to join prestigious leadership programs.
Mine: Invitations to buy long-term care insurance.
His: University of Maryland, trying to get alumni money from him before he even graduates.
Mine: My alma maters have given up on getting anything more from me. Southern Poverty Law Center knows they can still count on me, but may have to send multiple notices til one hits me at that swee4t-spot time of feeling both flush and guilted enough to donate.
His: Addressed to him specifically, very targeted to his oh-so desirable demographic.
Mine: Addressed “Resident.”
I keep my son’s mail in a box hung on the wall in the foyer. The idea is when he drops in to do laundry he’ll take it all back with him. This is more theory than practice, since like his dad, he doesn’t throw stuff away easily. Junk mail gets opened, then left on my kitchen table. (Which, to be fair, seems like fair game, given the clutter I keep there myself.) I can’t tell for sure if it’s junk mail, so hold it for him til next time he visits, sure he will see it at his place at the table and know he’s supposed to either toss it or take it or act on it. Dream on!
I was so excited a couple of weeks ago when he bopped by when I was out, and I came home to find that foyer mail box empty. But maybe I’d better not be so eager for that—maybe, as long as there’s mail there, it means he’s coming back.