A Visit to the Post Office

I have a letter to send to my sister and her husband in New York City. It’s a large envelope crammed with pages I’ve selected from the papers. It’s stuff they’d have heard about, stuff they might like to read about in greater detail. I slipped in a note: Here’s the News and the Olds. (News refers to the Aussies thrashing England in the Ashes, Olds will tell them Bob Hawke is dead.)
I ask the Postal Lady for stamps to New York by airmail. Postal Lady weighs my envelope: 64 grams, say the scales. Thirteen dollars sixty cents says Postal Lady. It will be delivered in twenty to twenty-five days.I wonder whether the postie walks to New York. That’s airmail? Yes. Everything is held up. Thirteen bucks? Wow! It is a lot, says Postal lady. Hold on, I’ll check. Postal lady gives her computer further instructions.Thirteen dollars, sixty, replies that avaricious device. Is it a problem of weight, or the size of the envelope? Weight, says Postal Lady, adding, If you can make it ten grams lighter it will come down to six dollars. Righto, I’ll get rid of something over at the counter, then I’ll come back to you. Over at the counter I remove two pages of Harvey Norman and Frydenberg’s Big Plans for the Budget.Three dollars something, says Postal Lady. I pay, rejoicing as one does who has just found a bargain at Harvey Norman. Do you mind if I ask you something? Are you Doctor Howard Goldenberg? I am. I thought so. You were my doctor when I was a baby in Diamond Creek fifty years ago. Really? Lucky me! I must say it’s hard to recognise you in the mask. Postal Lady removes her mask. I’ve changed since I was a baby. My mum says you told her I was the most beautiful baby you’d ever seen. I suppose you said that to all the mothers. (I suspect I did say just that.) I’d like to see a photo of yourself as a baby some time. I’ve got one here.Postal Lady starts interrogating photo archives in her phone. The queue of customers in the Post Office grows longer. It’s in here somewhere, Doctor. Further search. Matthew, Postal Lady’s colleague, gives her a Look. Postal Lady, engrossed, doesn’t notice. Found it! Here, look Doctor. Doctor looks at the photo in black and white of a newborn baby. She is in fact the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen.I say those words once again. Postal Lady says, You’d remember my mother better than me. I’ve got a photo somewhere here…I’m sorry I’m detaining you…I look around. The post office is filling with customers. Matthew looks over towards the second half of the PO’s workforce, but lingering as his look is, and withering withal, Postal Lady is oblivious in her quest for a snap of Mum. I decide there’s a problem in this office and I am that problem, and I can solve it by removing myself. Look, here’s my phone number. Send the photo to me, later, to my phone. I leave by the side door that gives onto one of Melbourne’s famed little lanes. The lane buzzes as throngs drink and dawdle in the bright sun. I wind my way quickly into a second lane. A voice behind hails me: Doctor! Doctor Howard! I turn. It’s Postal Lady. Look, this is Mum, here. She points at the pleasant, forgettable face in black and white of a young mother. I try to recognise her, but memory fails before visions of civil unrest in the Post Office.

5 thoughts on “A Visit to the Post Office

  1. michelle

    you know how to contact me at the clinic

    i’d like to be in touch

    if that is agreeable to you, please call the clinic and leave a message for me with your contact number, and i’ll call

    a refusal will not offend should m6 suggestionnnot appeal




  2. As one of your forgettable former patients who remembers you fondly, I empathise with Postal Lady. You were my doctor some 20 years ago, when I lived and worked in the CBD. I saw you for the first time when I walked into Midtown Medical Centre with a migraine. I should have been at home, sleeping it off, but the judge I worked for insisted on a medical certificate first. You looked at me and you saw me. You said with absolute compassion, “Oh, dear, you are in pain”. Never before, or since, has any doctor said such a thing to me. Thereafter, I recommended you to everyone. The last time I saw you was under joyful circumstances, when you penned a referral to an obstetrician in verse for me. My sons are now 8 and 6! I moved to the suburbs and needed a GP closer to home, but I have never forgotten your care and kindness.

    During one of my many sleepless nights (does any mother regain the ability to sleep through the night after having children?), I googled you, thinking to make an appointment if you were still in practice, and came upon your wonderful blog. I have read every post. Voraciously. Your writing is remarkable. I love it. Moving, compelling, full of humour and intelligence, insight and love. I have often been moved to tears. Tell you what though, you’re no cure for insomnia.
    In any case, it is nice to see you posting again after what feels like a long couple of months. I wish you and yours the best of health and happiness in 2022.


    • golly michelle

      what a shame you don’t get sick more often!
      (perhaps that came out wrong)

      better, michelle, i regret i no longer see you

      i’m grateful for your warm heart and your warm regard

      no writer can ever be impervious to praise like yours
      often i wonder who really wants this blog
      then out of the blue you write and suddenly i’m writing for a real, living person, a person i’d like to know better


      • I bet there are many out there who, like me, start to draft a response to you, but hesitate to reply because your regulars are more eloquent than we are, or more familiar to you. Please know that your writing is eagerly anticipated and valued- even by the introverted ones like me who lack a flair for writing.

        Thank you for replying to me. You made my day.


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