Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Letterbox February 10

It all started when my mother-in-law turned up on the doorstep out of breath and a little worse for wear.
“I was going to drop these off in the letterbox but there doesn’t appear to be any bottom in it,” she announced taking long lung filling gasps of air every three words.
It’s quite an effort to get to our front door involving a steep path, steps and a fair bit of fauna and flora clearing.
A cup of coffee and a sit down saw to my mother-in-law, but alas the letterbox on closer inspection did indeed have no bottom. Suddenly the mail which kept appearing in our garage, five metres to the right of the letterbox, delicately slipped under the locked door made sense. We had simply thought our mailman had gone a little odd and preferred the slot under the door than the slot in the box. We also understood why we frequently had to hunt in our overgrown garden looking for our mail.
Our letterbox was old when we moved in. It was possibly constructed at the same time as the garage which is pre-war. And like the garage which is barely standing, we just didn’t want to see that our letterbox was past it. We were convinced it was made from heart Kauri and so old and iconic we considered registering it as a historic place.
My mother-in-law offered to buy my husband a new one for his birthday but he couldn’t wait that long. Instead he instructed me to have a look on Trade Me, and a week later our marriage was severely strained. Who knew that men and women could think so differently about a letterbox?
“Not white, not metal, slot needs to be wider, too big, honestly how do you thank that is going to fit on our post?” he barked as I showed him my Trade Me selection of iconic and slightly weathered Kiwi letterboxes.
“Put in a search for ‘letterbox wooden’” he instructed (again) before marching off to address some literary crisis on
Unused to being instructed, let alone twice in one morning I went for a long walk to consider my options. Would I tear his heart out now or give him another 24 hours? As I walked I felt the same way I did when I got pregnant. Overnight you notice every pram, every baby, every other pregnant woman and that whole aisle in the supermarket with nappies in it where the day before they simply didn’t register on the radar. I stopped and admired every single letterbox, from the architect designed cedar and metal creations currently in vogue for Grey Lynn renovators, to various versions of the nice white metal one with room for four bottles of milk and a carrier I remembered from my childhood to the quirky artistic creations ranging from one painted to look like a TV and another involving pukekos and a great deal of ceramics. In Grey Lynn when people aren’t appearing on or making television, they express themselves with artistic letterboxes.
I returned home more confused than ever and stroked my broken letterbox. I’d never had to replace a letterbox before and you certainly don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Perhaps I could patch it, but where would I find the right grade and age of heart Kauri to match?
“I need to talk to you about the letterbox,” I said to my husband in the voice I use for getting my own way. “You’re being bossy and unreasonable and I really want one of those white metal ones from my childhood.”
“I was not bossy,” he retorted. “I just thought you’d appreciate my input.”
“Next you’ll be blaming the full moon and the hot summer,” I snarled, instantly regretting it.
“Right, I can see there’s only one way to sort this, get in the car we’re going to Mitre 10,” he instructed (again).
The good news is that we now have another letterbox, even though we left a trail of helpful Mitre 10 staff in our wake as they all tried to help the war of the worlds taking place in the letterbox aisle, before sensibly retreating to the safety of the lawnmowers.
It’s a wooden version of the white one and if you squint your eyes you could almost call it iconic.
“Happy now?” he grumped, content only that he got to choose the number to put on it, which is quite frankly gaudy.

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

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