Tuesday, May 04, 2010


These days, if I am actually mailing a letter through the post, I make an educated guess about the weight of it and stick an extra stamp on or two for good measure. After all, stamps cost less than a dollar each .. I use the kind that never expire, so I'm not even sure how much they cost individually any more. I buy them at the ATM on sheets the size of twenty dollar bills.

But in my youth, which after all was quite a while ago but not so long ago as all that, it was ever so important that one never put on even an extra penny's worth of postage. We had postage scales at home, or always conferred with the grumpy people at the post office. If you accidentally sent a letter that lacked a penny or two in postage, the letter would arrive "C.O.D." and the mailman would ask the recipient to pay up. There was actually a form for this. I remember taping pennies to the form and handing to the carrier.We cared about pennies! Waste not, want not!

Sending a letter overseas could not have been that expensive. But maybe it was? because we always took great care to avoid using heavy paper or regular envelopes when sending a note abroad. Aerogrammes, as thin as toilet paper and nearly transparent, were single sheets that could be folded up carefully and glued around the edges, making an envelope obsolete.If the aerogramme got wet or if you tried to open it with oily fingers, most of the writing could be destroyed. It was also hard to open one without ripping away parts of sentences.

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