200 bouncy balls and a pound of fruit gems

This post will not be about food or recipes. If you only like blog posts about food or recipes, you should not read this one. And broaden your horizons.

Mail is one of those things people complain about because they take for granted how amazing it is. It's like when people get mad at weather forecasters for not predicting the future well enough. "Now I have to pay forty-four cents for someone to take a piece of paper from me, put it on an airplane, then put it on a mail truck and finally take it directly to the house of an acquaintance on the other side of this massive country? It would be cheaper to just do it myself."

I did the math (full disclosure: I did not do any math) and it would not be cheaper.

Everyone loves getting mail, right? When I was a young child, I used to run out the front door of our house the moment I heard the postman pull up to our mailbox. Actually, I would watch him through the window and wait for him to drive to the next box so I wouldn't have to talk to him and then I would run out the front door. I would scream "I got it!" loudly so the whole house would hear and know that they didn't have to run out to get the mail immediately after it arrived; I had it covered.

I have no idea what I was so excited about. Mom and Dad's bills? Pottery Barn catalogs? I was a child and children don't receive mail. Except Highlights magazine, which was the best. Do they still print that? Probably not. Children probably get it on their My First Kindles. Or by text message. "Gfus tks the lst mp3. Glnt shrs his mp3s."

Anyway, now that I'm technically an adult, I actually get mail. Real mail addressed to me. Finally! And it's all garbage. Now I really don't know what I was so excited about when I went flying out the door as a little kid. We have one of those mail slots in the front door of our apartment, and every day I walk onto a floor newly cushioned with thousands of credit card offers and penny savers and nonprofit solicitations and pizza menus and letters from my "friends" and "neighbors" asking if I wouldn't like to save some money on my cable bill. And yet, despite this, each day I get excited all over again. "Today I will probably get something great," I can't help but think, evidence to the contrary. And when I don't get something great, it takes but five minutes for me to think ahead to the great things I will probably get in the next day's mail. It's like Memento.

It's such a waste. Mail could be so cool. We could be sending deer tibias. Or tiny tiny letters at the World's Smallest Post Service. A few weekends ago we went to the Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey exhibit at the Boston Athenæum and saw some of the illustrated envelopes he used to send his mother

I bring all of this up because over the weekend I was leaving the apartment, to attend David Leite's two-day food writing seminar here at Boston University as a matter of fact, when I found a package from my friend Sara on my doorstep. It was face down on the front porch and on the back was a picture of a chicken, drawn in marker by tracing the outline of a hand, and the words, "There's no doubt about it. Miss Applejuiceface really did make a chicken." (That's a long, strange story that involves a spring break trip we took as undergrads and Honey Nut Cheerios, which I won't get into). I turned it over and on the front was a picture of two stars, each with devil horns. (That's a longer, stranger story that involves evil stars falling from the sky and splitting in two, which I definitely will not get into).

In any event, here it was, finally; real, non-garbage mail for me. I was already running late for the seminar so I had to put the box in the house and wait, all day long, to open it. When I finally got home I ripped open the box and found the following items: a letter, a stove-top espresso maker from Sara's recent trip to Italy, a set of handwritten instructions on how to use the espresso maker, a bag of spaghetti spices, two short stories written by Sara, the book "Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories" by Kurt Vonnegut, the book "Travels with Charlie: In Search of America" by John Steinbeck, a pound of Sunkist fruit gems in a "Where the Wild Things Are" bag, and 200 bouncy balls, in various sizes, shapes and colors.

I poured the bouncy balls all over the floor and took pictures. I've eaten half the fruit gems already. I need to go buy an espresso cup so I can make espresso. Her letter was amazing. Her short stories were incredible. I'm sure the books will be great.

It was, basically, the best. We really could be taking advantage of this crazy mail system so much better. Less pre-approval letters and more bouncy balls.

Go send a tiny letter.