The Postman – Dianah Smith

Dianah Smith

In grade two I wanted to be the postman on Valentine’s Day. The Postman got to deliver all the Valentine’s cards and didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed by the small number of cards on his or her desk. The year before, Miss Hahn had sent a class list and a note home instructing parents to buy enough cards for each student on the list so that no one would be left out. And yet, I still received very few cards. So while the other kids giggled and counted their cards, my face burned with embarrassment and humiliation.

Karyn came to Viscount Alexander in grade two. I had spent the whole summer worrying about not having a best friend. Anna, my best friend from grade one, had left at the end of the school year. I always thought Anna and I had been destined to be best friends because she was Spanish and I knew that my dad had been born in Spanish Town, in Kingston, Jamaica. I wondered if my dad understood her language, and if that meant that she and I were related in some way. Before I could discover our shared roots, she moved away and went to another school.

The next September Gracie, Sot Bell and Karen Deveey were back. So were Pankaj and Jiban and Suzie. And there was a new girl. When I walked into the classroom there she was sitting in the front row – a little white girl, with brown hair cut in a bob, hands folded politely on the desk, sitting very straight, looking very attentive. I was worried for her.

She lived on King Edward Avenue in a house at the bottom of the hill. Most of us lived off of Mann Avenue in the low rise apartment buildings at the top of the hill. I knew I had to protect her from Scot, Karen Deevey and Gracie. Especially Gracie. They liked to pick on new kids, but they wouldn’t mess with her if I was with her. I decided I would be her bodyguard. She was soft and delicate, unlike the tough, loud, and brash crew that dominated Viscount Alexander Public School.

It didn’t take long for us to become best friends. We could always be found with our heads together giggling about something, whispering about Gracie or Karen Deevey, or trying to guess the identity of the secret admirer who had left a chocolate bar in her desk everyday for a week. Eventually we figured out that it was Andy, a pudgy, freckle faced, white kid from the top of the hill. He and his three sisters returned from lunch every day with Chef Boyardee sauce around their mouths. We were both disappointed when we found out it was him.

The week before Valentine’s Day we were sent home with a list of all the students in our grade two class. Mom bought a package of Valentines cards with McDonald’s characters. I picked out the Grimace card for Karyn and wrote ‘I love you’ inside the card. It was the first time I’d written those words.

That year my wish came true, and I was chosen as the Postman for our afternoon Valentine’s card delivery. I delivered everyone’s cards, but saved my Grimace card for recess because I wanted to present it to Karyn in private. I gave her the signal to meet me at the water fountain at the back of the classroom. At the water fountain, I told her that I hadn’t forgotten to get her a card I was saving it to give it to her at recess.

Although it was February, there were still patches of grass all around the schoolyard. It was a cold day, in the minus double digits, but I was feeling hot in my jacket. Normally it didn’t provide much warmth but in that moment, I was overheating from nervousness. We stood at the edge of the asphalt where the cement met the grass, me in an oversized robin’s egg blue nylon jacket, and Karyn in her pink, perfectly fitted winter jacket. I took a few deep breaths before handing her the card. She opened it and read my little note ending in ‘I love you’. I held my breath wondering what she would say, worrying about what she would do. Kids ran past, snowballs whizzed through the air, but I heard none of that. It was just the two of us. No one and nothing else existed. I remember everything that happened after that. She looked up at me after reading the card her brown hair framing her face like an angel, I heard her say ‘I love you too’. The world fell off its axis. The schoolyard started to spin. She loved me. I wanted to throw my hat in the air like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening sequence of the show. She loved me.

Dianah Smith is Jamaican-born, Ottawa-raised writer, teacher and arts educator. She is the Founder of ‘A’ is for Orange a reading series featuring queer Caribbean emerging writers, and the former curator of When the Rainbow Isn’t Enough a monthly reading series sponsored by the Toronto Women’s Bookstore featuring queer and trans emerging writers of colour and two-spirited emerging writers. Dianah is the recipient of several grants including an emerging writer’s grant from the Toronto Arts Council and a Writing Mentorship grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Dianah has been published in Siren and Flirt magazines and most recently in Shameless magazine (Summer/Fall 2008). She says ‘Writing is a way to grieve/retrieve the past, make sense of the present and leave a legacy for the future.

Comments from old site:

Submitted by urchu (not verified) on Mon, 01/26/2009 – 23:06.

Please imagine this as my special HamBurgler card to you…that says “i love this story”. thank you for sharing your writing with us!

Submitted by Maysie (not verified) on Wed, 01/14/2009 – 20:25.

Dianah, I love your story! Such a sweet, vulnerable and wise character, in the way only children are. Very touching. More please! 🙂

Submitted by Elisha Lim (not verified) on Fri, 01/02/2009 – 17:28.

The world falls off its axis every time I hear this story – Dianah thanks for putting these feelings into words so well!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/08/2009 – 21:23.

oooh, shivers of delight up my back.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/12/2009 – 04:21.

Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words!