Monday, November 8, 2010

"L" is for Letters

I’m wearing old Levis, a vintage Rolling Stones t-shirt and some flip flops. My hair is in a loose, messy ponytail and the sun warms my face. It’s springtime in Phoenix – a gorgeous day. Vast Arizona blue skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s, just for us. The kind of day Phoenicians fall in love with again and again, especially as we hear tales of freak blizzards and tornados from our friends and family in other states. I’m out running my errands, which on most days, takes me downtown to one of my favorite blocks in the city – “Block L”. I need to check my mail and buy some stamps.

As I step into “my” downtown post office I feel happy. The smell of old buildings has always been soothing to me. As a child, my grandparents owned an antique store called Bedknobs & Broomsticks which I pretty much lived in from the time I was a baby until I was almost 5 years old. The “stories” of the treasures that surrounded me fascinated and intrigued me, and was probably the jumping point for my inquisitive nature. I would delicately cradle an antique doll and automatically wonder about the little girl who played with her when the dolly was new. Who was she? Where did she live? What did she look like?

Being in places that connect me to the past makes me feel grounded. It bonds me to humanity. My post office was formerly known as the Phoenix Federal building, and was designed in 1932 by two very important architects in Phoenix’s history - Royal Lescher and Leslie Mahoney. The doors opened in 1936. 74 years later, it’s me opening them. A lot can happen in 74 years.

In 1936, the year this building opened its doors, one of the biggest Phoenix to-dos was an event called the Masque of the Yellow Moon. Centered on an ancient Native American tradition and the full, springtime, yellow moon – it was a time to pause and give thanks, and to reflect on prosperity. Every spring for 30 years, thousands of people in Phoenix would dress up in costume and come together to do just that. I like this idea very much. Masque of the Yellow Moon died out in 1955 when the population of the city began to explode and Cordelia Perkins, the event director for 21 years, decided to retire. Times change... Communities grow...

“Community” is a strong word for me. It evokes a sense of belonging, a tie to my past – and my future. This is my community. This block. These people. The workers here know me by name, and joke with me as I meander over to my old-fashioned post office box. I take my time leaving, absorbing the old, black and white photographs on the wall of the time and the people that were here before me. A time when people celebrated under a full, yellow moon on a spring night to give thanks.

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