One of the neat things about being married is how you can do a ton of work on something and then your spouse can come in at the last minute for the hero shot and destroy hours of blood, sweat, and tears. I’m not saying it’s intentional, I’m just saying that it happens.
And, also, I love you, honey.
Which brings me to the story of why our mailbox looks mostly beautiful but also has character.
One of the many items you completely ignore when shopping for a house (much like checking the insides of the kitchen cabinets for bright orange contact paper welded on with Gorilla Glue or asking the sellers what each light switch does so that, seven years later, you are not still wondering what the switch next to the stairs is controlling).
Our mailbox is a behemoth.
We did notice that – the size of it. Beyond that, nothing. It wasn’t until we were the new owners of our home and actually receiving mail that we learned that our mailbox was made of the same armor that prevents tanks from missile attacks. We also learned that it sat atop a spinning post to allow access without having to stand on our busy road, discovered in a momentary lean that turned into a momentary oh gawd, this thing moves! When we realized it was made of uranium (or is it titanium), we thought man, that guy (Dave, the previous owner) really went to town. It wasn’t a big surprise as Dave had gone to town on a lot of things in the house, like random light switches. We can only guess that he had moved here from the Midwest and brought with him a fear of tornadoes or boll weevils or low-flying UFOs.
It did not take very long to understand the choice of a two ton mailbox as we soon saw evidence of weekend shenanigans in the form of downed mailboxes up and down our street each Monday morning. Kids, am I right? The baseball bandits did not leave our mailbox out – it’s just that they had no chance with it. Hitting our mailbox while cruising past at 35mph likely (and I wish I were kidding (except I don’t)). has caused a broken wrist or two. The box will not be taken down. Or even dented. We would hear the occasional bong of attempt. We would run out to get a visual. We would see an unmoved mailbox and taillights limping up the hill, sometimes with the site of an arm being shaken in pain thru the back window.
There have only been two casualties. First, we used to keep a 12” skull on top of the mailbox. It started as a Halloween decoration, then became an every holiday decoration, then became a marker for folks trying to find our house. We became known as the weird people on our road. We would tell new friends which street we lived on and where on that street and we would hear back oh, near the weird people with the skull? Yes, near those people. It was broad daylight the first time he (the skull) was assaulted. He suffered very minor injuries, lessened by a steel cable that kept him from flying too far. Cla clang mother effers.
The second casualty was more recent when an entire car hit our box. In the three seconds it took us to stand up from dinner and send a child to the bottom of the driveway to deliver the trash cans, our mailbox had been altered. The child sent a picture of the mailbox resting in the ditch by the road next to several pieces of a bumper and a side mirror. The mailbox? Intact. The fix? A two person job to lift it back to vertical and slide it on its pole. We have no idea what happened to the car but it couldn’t have been good. I did try to find the bumper’s owner with no luck.
I have not been a fan of the generic, peeling numbers that graced our mailbox for the seven years that I’ve driven by them. I have also watched the copper paint fade to dull. About a year ago, I added “redo the mailbox” to my list and finally decided that Labor Day 2021 was go-time. The project gods had to come together with a three day weekend (so that we could bring the mailbox up to the house, sand it down, repaint it, renumber it, and take it back down) that included paint friendly temperatures and dry skies. Labor Day came with the stars aligned. Bingo. My husband and I loaded the mailbox into the back of his car and brought it up the driveway for its spa weekend. Midway through the thorough cleaning, our mail lady swung in to ask that we also raise the mailbox by eight inches so that she could reach it more easily. Done.
I spent Saturday cleaning, sanding, and priming. I spent Sunday putting coats of copper on two and a half sides (as usual, we ended up needing twice as much paint as was purchased). I spent Monday doing the other sides and, by then, was reminding myself that it did not have to be perfect. My husband worked out the how-to on raising it and suggested sealing it with some fancy glaze once I got the new numbers applied. Which is when I panicked. I hadn’t actually prepared any numbers yet. I only had ideas in my head. Zero execution. And it was already day two. I threw down another coat of paint on the spots I thought looked funny made a beeline to the craft room to design the accoutrements.
When “redo the mailbox” was added to my list a year prior, I had some pretty big plans about what sort of numbering/naming design I would do. What I forgot was how enormous the box was and how my Cricut was great for making cuts under 23 inches, but not so much larger. Because I do know my patience limits, I didn’t want to go bigger than 23 inches as it would involve more OCD than I was willing to invest on a holiday weekend. Plus, I realized that I’d ordered just barely enough reflective adhesive vinyl to cover each side of the mailbox with something simple. Which meant I only had one shot to cut the vinyl accurately. For those who don’t Cricut…whenever one uses a certain type of vinyl for the first time, it often ends with somebody swearing and crying and giving up on all future arts and crafts forever. Her name is Me. This reflective vinyl I’d bought just, just, just enough of was totally different than anything I’d ever cut before. No pressure though.
What could go wrong?
Yes, I know, I could have ordered more vinyl and waited it out. Yes, I know, I could have turned the “weekend” project into a “more than one weekend” project. Yes, I know, I could have used Post Its or cardboard as temporary numbers to buy extra time. Do you know me at all? When I commit to a project, I am also committing to the time spent on that project. Altering that is tantrum worthy (according to me….my husband disagrees…or at least his eye rolls do).
What could go wrong?
NOTHING. Vinyl cut, check! It didn’t cut all the way through the first time, but by some glory of the brains god, I did NOT hit the eject button on the cutter so I was able to run it through a second time for success. This never happens. This seemed too easy. Had I gotten this skilled without even knowing it? Sure, I had yet to get the vinyl onto the actual mailbox. Sure, I wasn’t sure if it would even stick to the new copper paint.
It wasn’t easy, but I did the vinyl transfer. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy enough to make me relieved that I had sort of agreed to my husband’s offer to seal it with some fancy glaze. It would add at least a day to my now four day long weekend project but the numbering would not slide off should the temperatures get Virginia hot. One more day. Two more days. The mail lady knew we were building her something special. What was the rush?
I believe it was Wednesday when my husband pulled off his gas mask and declared the mailbox sealed. We were ready to deploy the tank. It looked great. I began to imagine people cruising down our road and coming to a halt when they first glimpsed this shiny wonder. Those numbers, they would think, how can I get some of those beautiful numbers? Even our baseball-toting friends would stop when they saw our coffer realizing that dinging it would be a sin against hu-mail-manity.
Here’s where things went slightly awry.
My husband loaded the mailbox back into the back of his car, an SUV. No biggie, right? That’s how we got it up the driveway. He did not close the back of the SUV. No biggie, right? That’s what happens when you taxi a mailbox the size of a baby elephant.
Wait, here’s where things went slightly awry.
My husband started slowly backing down the driveway. Backing? This wasn’t going to work, right? I started recalling things like fresh smooth paint and some fancy glaze and a lesson I’d had years and years ago about a phenomenon where things fall to the earth. It had something to do with one body being pulled towards another body. What was it? Oh yes, GRAVITY. I knew right away we were in trouble but before I could say You’ve Got Mail, we heard the sound of the mailbox launching itself out of the car, kicking off the longest three seconds of the mailbox renovation’s life.
CLA. CLANG. MOTHER. EFFERS.
The apologies started coming before the car was even put in park. The mailbox had landed on its side and stayed there (thankfully?) while it made the rest of the trek down the driveway by itself, luging to a halt on the pavement. Rich hopped out, apologies now coming in one big run on sentence, and slowly lifted the mailbox to check the damage while I closed my eyes and prayed to Saint Donot Killyourhusband.
We saw the damage differently and in reverse of what either of us expected. He continued the apologies and added in promises to fix it right away. I told him it was fine and it wasn’t that bad (no really, I was also surprised at the words coming from my mouth) and that I didn’t have any more reflective vinyl. One side of the box remained perfect. The other, well, now it had character, right? No biggie, right?
Still, nary a dent on the box. Nary a scratch, either. The damage was mostly limited to the some fancy glaze and the letters in our street name where the pavement managed to breach the some fancy glaze. Yes, the damaged side was the one with the most visibility. Sure. Why wouldn’t it be? But, as we like to say when we are trying to quickly cover our sins…at least no one got hurt, right?
I think I’ve become softer and gentler in my second half. Or maybe it was the mix of terror and remorse in my husband’s eyes. I did not force a reloading of the mailbox for repairs. We picked it up, dusted it off, and popped it on its higher pole with a half-hearted promise to touch it up later. I’ve yet to see any cars cruise to a halt in order to ogle this masterpiece in wonder. I’ve also yet to hear of anyone getting lost on the journey to our house because, on one side of the mailbox, the word road looks a bit chopped up.
And, frankly, the fact that my husband got through a five day project that involved collaboration without a bump in that road is a small miracle. It’s a win.
A bright and shiny win, with character, that we are reminded of each time we pull in.