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I got a letter in the mail the other day. Remember letters? Remember those messages that came mostly in white envelopes and were left in your mail box? I used to get them all the time from friends, relatives, radio listeners, readers of this column, libel attorneys. (just kidding).
Our modes of communication have become so modern and so sophisticated in recent years and everyone now stays in touch by cell phone, e-mails, iPods - three options that were unknown to most of us just a few years ago.
Oh, I still get an occasional letter, I just don't get anywhere near the number I used to get. It's gotten so bad our mailman says he's worried that his job may be in jeopardy. He said these days if it weren't for the junk mail folks he'd have nothing to deliver.
Now - in place of letters - I get lots and lots of e-mails.
I bring this up about letters because just the other day I was surprised to get not just a letter but a fat envelope containing a several-page letter. It was all hand written from a neighbor who - for some strange reason - insists on leaving Maine in early December to spend his winters in Coral Gables. I know - go figure.
While we're up here in Maine having all kinds of fun chopping and stacking wood, thawing pipes, calling the furnace repair guy, thawing more pipes, shoveling and sanding walks, replacing pipes that froze and falling on icy sidewalks - he's down there in Boca Rattan dealing with things like his golf game, his deep-sea fishing trips and those gin and tonics by the pool.
Is that any way for a Downeaster to live? He claims he's having a great time but I know he's lying because after a brief four or five months down there dealing with all that hot sun and those balmy breezes he starts making plans to come back to Maine where he belongs. But at least he sent me a letter. And if there's anything better than receiving a letter, it's a long letter in a fat envelope.
In his letter he tried his best to make it sound like it was day-after-day of nothing but fun down there in Florida but I wasn't buying any of it. Toward the end of his letter he got around to asking if he'd missed anything while he was down there in Boca Rattan.
After thinking it over for a while I soon realized how many exciting things he had missed since he left last November so I sat down and started writing.
In my return letter, I told him about the December cold snap that he just barely missed by cutting out so early. Knowing he'd be interested I went on for some length about some of the record low temperatures we've had ever since that early freeze.
I knew he'd feel sorry about missing that morning in January when it was 19 below zero at kitchen window thermometer, so I went into some detail there - telling about how bad the pickup sounded when it finally got going and how the pipes in the downstairs bathroom froze solid, something they'd never done before.
And what review of winter would be complete without mentioning how thick the ice got this winter on roads and walkways and at the lake up to camp, and how I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on one of the colder ice fishing trips we took in February.
Now, the roads up that way are so bumpy you'd rattle the cavities right out of your teeth if you drove over them any distance.
There were the heating oil prices that almost sent us to the poorhouse and all the expensive repairs that are normal in Maine in winter. I knew he's wanted to hear all about that business.
Saving the best for last I finally told him about the town meeting we just had last week at the high school and how the different factions in town almost came to blows over one article or another. I knew he'd feel awful about missing the homegrown excitement that only our town can produce.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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