Wednesday, December 07, 2011


I am standing in line at the New Hill post office, minding my own business. I have two books in my arms because I need to buy a box to ship them in. I hear the bells on the door jingle, but don't give it much thought.

"You have the most BEAUTiful hayer," comes a hushed and happy voice.

"Oh, thank you," I say, turning around to see an old woman, wrapped head to toe in scarves, jackets, socks and boots.

"It's really beautiful. Merry Christmas," she goes on. "Are you shippin books? Ah am not an avid reader, but Ah am tryin to be. That is so good that you are a reader. Ah am Cecilia. What is your name?"

"I'm Emma," I say, absolutely unable to stop smiling at the wondrousness.


"Emma, E-M-M-A."

"OH Emma, hello Emma. Is thayet your husband out thayer waitin for you?" She points to an old man with a white beard in the pickup outside.

"No, no, I'm not sure who that is."

"Well thayen how did you get here? Ahr you from New Heel?"

"Yes, I am!"

"Well thank God for you!" She seems genuinely relieved that I am a local, as if my soul is safe and all is well with the world. "Did you know that Santy Clause works back thayer? Hello Santy Clause!"

The post mistress peeks around the client she's helping. "He's already gone to deliver the mail, Cecilia. Rob's back there."

"Forgive me Rob, Ah thought you were Santy," Cecilia hollers through the outgoing mail slot, then nods at the post mistress. "That is Mae. Mae can do anything. Do you see her royal gloves? She wayers purple gloves because she is a hero. She stands in the gap for the Master."

I am awed. Clearly Mae is a powerful woman of God.

Cecilia continues. "The Post Master, thayet is."

It is my turn to be helped, so I hand over my books to Mae. "Do you have a box that could fit these?" Since Mae can do all things through power of the Post Master who sustains her, it does not enter my head that I will leave with anything other than success.

Mae looks troubled. "I'm not sure we have the right boxes," she says as she rummages about.

"Oh," I say, a little crestfallen. If I can't get a box at the New Hill post office then I will have to go to the Apex location, which is the stuff of nightmares during the Christmas season.

"Ah have a box," Cecilia pipes in. "Ah pulled it from the garbage on Thursday. Let me go geeyit that box for you." She hands her parcel over the counter and disappears outside.

I'm not sure what to think. Mae has clearly experienced this before. She calmly continues to look around. "Well," she says, "the best I've got is priority shipping, which is five dollars."

"I don't mind five dollars." She hands over the box and I try to assemble it while she begins rustling for some packing tape. I soon see, however, that this box is too small. "I don't think I can fit both books into it." Just as I am handing the box back, Cecilia reappears -- wielding a cardboard box festooned with tape and labels.

"Thank God for this box," she's saying. "And thank God for you for needin this box. Ah think this is just the right size."

"Well, Cecilia, I'm afraid we don't have any tape to package up the box," says Mae patiently.

Cecilia is still busily tucking my books into her raggedy but quite functional box. She stuffs some crinkled newspaper into some of the negative space. "Ah read this paper last week and this article was very good. It will keep the books from shiftin. What is thayet about tape?"

"We are all out of tape," Mae repeats.

"Well you have some right thayer on the wall." Cecilia obligingly points to the displays of tape rolls for sale.

"Well those are three dollars each--" Mae begins.

I am just about to say that I don't mind buying a roll of tape since it will get used eventually, but Cecilia waves her hands in the air and says, "This young lady cannot afford that. Ah have some clear duck tape at my house. Ah will go and get it for you. Did you know that clear duck tape is the strongest? It is like regular duck tape, but clear." She double wraps her scarf against the bone-chilling 50 degree air and marches purposefully out the door.

Mae starts to weigh my package. "I'm sure she'll be right back," she says. "I'll just print up your shipping label so that you can pay and be ready to go."

I have just signed the receipt when Cecilia bursts back in. "This is clear duck tape. It is the strongest kind of tape. Here, you hold this box closed and Ah will put this duck tape on it."

She stretches a long piece of tape over the seam of the top. At this moment, the Post Master (who is actually a lady) comes through the front door. "Sue," Cecilia says in a voice of delighted doom, "thayer is no tape here. Ah had to get this poor young lady some tape so she could mail her books."

Sue looks a little baffled. "We have rolls of tape for sale, Cecilia."

"Forgive me Sue, you are right. Ah should not have said thayet. You are right, Ah do not know what Ah was thinkin." Meanwhile, Cecilia has been deftly mummifying the box. She pauses to survey her handiwork. "Ah will just put one more piece on. Thayer, Ah feel much mower secure. You have been so smart, shippin these books this way. Look, they are goin to Raleigh. You have saved so much money on gas this way."

"Cecilia," I say, still quite overcome by delight and respect for this woman's generosity. "Thank you so much. You are truly the kindest person I have met in a long time."

"Well, you are from New Heel. People don't treat each other right anymore, but you are New Heel and I will take cayer of my people." She goes in for a hug and I cannot refuse. "Goodbye Emma," she says. "Marry Christmas. Happy New Year. Happy Hanukkah!"