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March 2, 2021

Return to Sender

   In the 1960s, the BBC was playing over and over for its listeners…Elvis Presley’s latest hit about writing a letter to a lost love –
                                 Return to sender, Address unknown,
                                 No such number, No such zone.
   Mailboxes now standing alone in front of houses, now gone…gone because of fires that ravished our mountains and valleys here in Santa Cruz county and beyond.   Mailboxes that once held precious messages, birthday cards with money tucked inside both to and from well-wishers, and oh so many cards at Holiday seasons; mailboxes now abandoned and left empty at the side of roads.
   As a child traveling in the back seat of my uncles 1935 Chrysler car, I would roll down the window and with head resting on the sill, I would breath in the  warm summers’ air, all the while ‘taking in’ as much as I could from a car traveling 35 miles an hour on bumpy country roads.  I was fascinated by those mailboxes that appeared in front of each farmhouse along our way.  Some were on sturdy posts and well-maintained, while others like the farmhouse and barn alongside, were close to falling over and rusty, no longer having their hinged door intact, leaving their contents vulnerable to the surrounding elements.
   Those ‘tunnel-shaped’ mailboxes in the 1940s were all pretty much the same, the only difference were the posts that held them and the hand-lettered numbers on their sides.  Ours on Curtis Street in Aberdeen, Washington read ‘514’. 
   For years, each summer I would sit on the ground under ‘514’ and wait for the mailman to appear two blocks away.  I would pretend that the mailman would reach down and hand me a letter from my mom or dad, but alas, this never happened.  I learned during those years that nothing echoes like an empty mailbox.
   As a grown woman I returned to Curtis Street many years later.  The street had remained about the same with one exception…mailbox number 514 is no longer there due to a fire in 1970.  Blackberry bushes and weeds now cover the ground as well as neatly stacked loads of lumber put there by the cedar mill next door.  As I drove away, I remembered the sound of the door closing on that empty mailbox
and of the letter that never arrived.
   Forty years ago on Sunset Beach, North Carolina, a mailbox on a weathered post and a wooden bench which sits alongside, were placed there by Frank Nesmith, now 90 years old.  The mailbox has been named “The Kindred Spirits” mailbox and has a notebook and pencil inside.  Anyone wishing to post their thoughts, whether happy or sad, are invited to do so. 
   In order to find this mailbox, which has been ravished through those many years by floods and hurricanes, one must walk through sand dunes for about a half hour after parking.  Thousands of people have followed the arrows pointing in the direction of the Kindred Spirits, and thousands have written in those notebooks, now over 500 of them, which are archived and housed in the Wm. Randall Library of the University of North Carolina.
   Stories of summertime romances, births and deaths of loved ones; aspirations, marriage proposals and prayers, all written in languages of many nations, all pouring out their hearts on paper, all are preserved in the library’s archives where they are being catalogued in order that one day those precious stories may be read by you and me.
   Here in our beautiful Valley, as each new post with a new mailbox is erected in front of a newly built home, life will begin once again, for we are all Kindred Spirits, strong and full of faith, hope and love for each other.
   
Warm and Comforting Tortellini Sausage Soup
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 cup diced onion
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced carrots
2 cloves diced garlic
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
Sauté the above together until onions are translucent, being careful not to brown.
Add to vegetables:
32 oz. of Chicken Stock (one carton)
1 Cup diced tomatoes, fresh preferred.
3 seven-inch Italian smoked sausages sliced ½ in. thick
One package (10 oz.) Cheese filled Tortellini
1 bunch of lightly chopped Swiss Chard
S/P to taste
Simmer together one-half hour. 
Serve with a hearty Pinot Noir wine and toasted garlic French bread.

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