By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti jogged ahead of Mac to the door of the post office and held it open for the woman walking along the sidewalk balancing three big packages in her arms.
“Thank you very much!” the woman said breathlessly. “These boxes are heavy!”
“You’re welcome,” Joseph answered politely.
“You know what would be really fun?” Mac asked, dancing through the door while Joseph still held it. “We could come to the post office next Christmas and open the door for people who are coming to mail their packages. There are always lots and lots of people mailing boxes then. I think that would be a truly helpful thing to do!”
“That’s a good idea!” Joseph agreed. “It could sort of be like us giving a Christmas present to the town! Merry Christmas, Jacksonville, from Joseph and Mac!”
“We could even get those red Santa Claus hats with white fur and wear them!” Mac said. “Or maybe angel wings and halos! My dad could make us halos easy!”
“I’m not wearing any angel wings to the post office!” Joseph said firmly. “I’m not wearing a halo either!”
Mac giggled. “OK,” she said. She skipped over to the wall of post office boxes and peeked through the tiny glass window. “We only have two letters today,” she announced as she turned the combination knobs to open the box.
Joseph looked through the glass into Grandma Maddie’s box. “We have a lot of stuff,” he said. “I hope they’re not all bills. G.M. hates it when we don’t get anything but bills!” He unlocked the box and pulled out all the envelopes. “Here’s a letter from somebody,” he said. “G.M. will like that.”
Outside the post office once again, Mac twirled along the sidewalk in the spring sunshine. “I like it when we get to come get the mail,” she said. “I’m glad we live in a small town. My mom probably wouldn’t let me walk to the post office if we lived in Medford.”
“If we lived in Medford, we wouldn’t have to go to the post office,” Joseph reminded her. “In Medford, the mail carrier brings the mail to people’s houses. You’d better stop twirling or you’re going to get dizzy and drop your envelopes!”
By the time they walked the few blocks home, Mac had, indeed, dropped them—three times. “Maybe Mom won’t notice the dirt,” she said hopefully, rubbing the envelopes against the leg of her jeans.
“Yeah, right!” Joseph said.
Mac made a face at him and sprinted across the lawn to her back door.
Joseph clumped up the steps and into the kitchen. “You got a letter,” he said to G.M.
G.M. wiped dishwater from her hands and took the envelope Joseph handed her. “It’s from Aunt Lois!” she exclaimed. “I love Aunt Lois!”
“Who’s Aunt Lois?” Joseph asked, peering into the refrigerator. “Can I have some apple juice?”
“Sure. Pour me a glass too, please,” G.M. answered. “Aunt Lois is my father’s adopted sister. She’s 99 years old.”
“Ninety-nine!” Joseph exclaimed. “That’s really, really old!”
G.M. laughed. “I know,” she said. “I haven’t been able to visit Aunt Lois for about four years, but the last time I was there, she was complaining that the head had come off her ax and she couldn’t chop any kindling until she got it fixed.”
Joseph did the math in his head. “You mean she was chopping kindling when she was 95 years old?” he asked.
“Amazing, isn’t it? And she’s just the tiniest little woman too,” G.M. said, opening the envelope. She read a few lines and burst out laughing.
“What? What?” Joseph asked.
“Aunt Lois is inviting me to her 100th birthday party this summer. She says she hasn’t been able to work in her garden this spring like she’s used to doing. She said she practically feels 100 already!”
Joseph grinned. “She sounds funny! I wish I knew her.”
G.M. looked up. “Aunt Lois is a truly remarkable woman,” she said. “She was a missionary nurse and had all kinds of adventures in the mission field. And still, at 99, she lives at home and takes care of herself. I’ve kept all the letters she has sent me over the years. Would you like to read them?”
“Yes!” Joseph nodded. “Sometimes I can’t read cursive very well, but you could help me.”
“OK,” G.M. said. “You can begin to get to know Aunt Lois through reading her letters. And I’ll tell you all the stories I remember about her. Maybe we can figure out a way to go down to California and help celebrate her 100th birthday. Would you like that? It will probably be a huge party. Lots and lots of people love Aunt Lois!”
“Let’s go!” Joseph said.