Ed Ackerman

Ed Ackerman Pittston Progress cv30ackermanp2 Warren Ruda / The Citizens' Voice

I start getting a lump in my throat the moment Fred, the defense attorney, places the three letters addressed to Santa on the judge’s desk and suggests since “bona fide employees” of the U.S. Post Office, “a branch of the federal government,” have delivered them to his client, Kris, seated right there in the courtroom, then there can be no disputing that he is, indeed, Santa Claus.

My heart starts pounding when the defense attorney smugly comments, not in so many words but close enough, that three letters do not a Santa make.

My tears start to gather when Fred says he can produce more than three letters and the judge, having no idea what he is in for, insists he produce these letters pronto and place them “right here on my desk, right here.”

And when the doors of the courtroom open and the postal employees — one, two three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 — march in, each carrying a giant bag of mail on his shoulder and dragging another along the floor, followed by an 11th with yet another bag, I try my best not to make weird, snorting sounds while battling the urge to start bawling.

I do my best to hold it together when the judge digs his way out from under the mountain of mail dumped practically on his head and proclaims, “Since the U.S. government has declared this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it,” but by then, tears are flowing down my cheeks and everyone in the room knows what a wimp I can be.

Sorry, but the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” does this to me every single time.

Today, I have a tear in my eye for a different reason, however.

How did we get to the point where the revered “branch of the federal government” that served up the above Christmas miracle in 1947, and countless others before or since, cannot be trusted with mail-in ballots in a presidential election in 2020?

Actually, I know how. The reasons the United States Postal Service is in the condition it is today have been well documented. I’ve been hearing them over and over. There’s almost as much evidence as there are letters to Santa that this is not our parents’ Post Office.

I get that. But I don’t have to like it.

True, “Miracle on 34th Street” is only a movie, but I well remember a time when the Post Office was revered. When “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night would stay (those) couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” and we admired them for it.

I well remember waiting on the front steps hoping this was the day the “mailman” would bring the magical ring I ordered with Cheerios box tops. I well remember the thrill of finding in the mailbox Life magazine, bringing us the pictures that went with the news we followed on TV or the radio (the first time I laid eyes on The Beatles was not on television but on the cover of Life), or the Sears Wish Book, the stuff Christmas lists were made of. And speaking of Christmas, I well remember the holiday season when we’d get a second mail delivery every day because the number of cards was so great.

But it was more than that.

When I was a kid, and even a young adult for that matter, I always considered “mailmen” (there were no females delivering the mail back then) modern knights in shining armor. In many ways they were, not just delivering the mail but also patrolling the streets.

Mailmen knew their routes so well they’d pick up on any little discrepancy in a neighborhood — Mrs. Walsh’s blinds are never still closed at this time of day, something must be wrong; that’s little Billy Williams’ tricycle tipped over near the street, but where’s little Billy? — and swing into action.

A friend who retired from the Post Office several years ago told me part of his routine was to walk up the back steps of an elderly woman’s home and knock on the door to make sure she was okay. Often, he’d bring her a donut. On Tuesdays, he’d tie up her bag of garbage and haul it out to the curb.

So, just as I cannot help getting choked up when watching “Miracle on 34th Street,” I cannot help getting upset when I see letter carriers, some still making their rounds at 8 o’clock at night, being underappreciated, not to mention the very integrity of the Post Office being called into question.

I, for one, am still mightily impressed that I can put a 55-cent stamp on a letter to my grandson and know that, without fail, he will have it in his hands a few days later nearly 1,700 miles away in Austin, Texas. I find that somewhat of a miracle, too.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.

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