Small Differences : Mail Boxes

I own a mail box for the first time in my life.

We had no sooner moved into this house than a letter arrived informing us that the postal service required us to install a kerbside mail box (as opposed to one attached to the exterior wall).  I imagine this was the result of some sort of efficiency drive on the part of the postal service as the kerbside box means the postal worker does not even have to exit the mail van.  Upon receiving this communication, I looked left and right along our new street and right enough ours was the only house without a kerbside mail box.  We duly installed one within a week of moving in.  I can only assume our mail delivery person is now happier.

I  am new to this whole culture of mailboxes and cannot quite wrap my head around it.  In Britain, you have a letterbox in your front door.  The postie can then shove all your letters and even some small parcels through this flap in your door so that the mail lands safely and securely inside your house.  No risk of weather damage or theft.  The only risk was tripping over a massive pile of mail on returning from a vacation.  Here in America, on the other hand, it all seems to become quite complicated because the receptacle for the post is outside the house and is, therefore, not so secure against the elements or sticky fingers.  It would not have been a concern in our new house since we have a porch but at the rental property, on rainy days, I had to ensure that I grabbed the mail from the box as soon as it arrived otherwise it would all turn into a soggy mush of papier mache since the box attached to the side of the house allowed water to drain into it, creating a destructive puddle at the bottom.  Furthermore, because the mail is not securely deposited inside a house, there have to be all sorts of mail tampering laws in place – as I learned last November.  This means that only an authorised mail delivery person can deposit anything into anyone’s mailbox.  Furthermore, since the mail cannot simply be left to accumulate into a small mound on the other side of the door’s threshold, when travelling it becomes necessary to halt the delivery of the mail, have the postal service keep hold of it, and then resume delivery upon return.  That then becomes yet another one of those thing you need to remember to do before going on a trip.  Finally, although we paid for an installed our mailbox, it is not our property.  No.  Apparently all mailboxes are property of the United States Postal Service as that then gives them the authority to impose all of these mail tampering laws upon it.

So it is all very weird and alien but I do love having a mailbox all the same because it’s that little slice of Americana that reminds me everyday that I am now living on a different continent and am experiencing new things.

Mail Tampering

Moving to another country involves a lot of realizing there are things you didn’t know you didn’t know until you need to know it.

I have written Thanksgiving cards for the neighbours and now need to deliver them. I was about to pop them in their mailboxes when something in a dusty nook in my brain bright itself to my attention. Something about mailboxes, tampering with mail and federal laws. So I didn’t “post” the cards and instead researched the issue as modern people do by asking the question on Facebook.

It transpires there was something worth noting in that musty corner of my memory because there is indeed a law prohibiting anything other than officially posted mail going in mailboxes.

In Scotland, houses had letterboxes, a rectangular hole with a flap cut into an exterior door. Thus post was ostensibly secure as soon as it had been shoved through the flap and it was possible, therefore, to deliver post by hand in the same way the postman delivered stamped and franked post. Here such an action could get me in trouble.

It appears what I have to do is sandwich the cards between the house door and storm door, which is a challenge of speed and dexterity but is at least definitely legal.

Who am I and why am I here?

The title is not an indication that this first post (or blog indeed) will be full of existential angst.  Quite literally I thought I ought to explain who I am and why I am here.

So the title of my blog is “A Pict in PA”.  The latter part is easy to explain: I live in Pennsylvania – PA for short.  I have done for precisely a week.  Indeed, I have lived in America for precisely one week.  That segues me into the Pict part which is a little tricker to explain.  Partly I opted for Pict because I love alliteration.  I actually alliterate without thinking about it because it is a compulsive thing for me.  I am, however, from Fife in Scotland – the Pictish Kingdom of Fife.  And I am pretty confident that, short of a DNA test to prove it, I have Pict blood coursing through my veins: I am short, dark and hairy and very feisty.  So I am a Pict in PA.  Simple really.

And why am I in PA?  Well what do you do when your husband of many years, the father of your four children, starts a late night conversation with the phrase, “What would you think about us moving to America?”  Option one is to smother him with a pillow but I happen to love my husband so I heard him out and actually a lot of what he said made sense.  That in itself was kind of remarkable.  So my husband, who is a dual US/UK national who had not lived in the US for 20 years, set to researching and investigating how we could possibly relocate our family to the US.  It’s impossible to precis the saga that followed so to cut that epic short – just over a year on from that initial conversation, after a lot of immigration hooha at the London Embassy, a great deal of soul-searching and very difficult goodbyes, and a period of the kids and I living apart from my husband – our family of six took up residence in Pennsylvania.

So the purpose of this blog is to record my experience, as an immigrant mother, relocating family life from one side of the Atlantic to the other.  The intention is for it to be a journal of sorts, help me process my responses to new experiences and opportunities by typing it out and perhaps even provide family and friends with some insight into what we are doing as a family hundreds of miles away.