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Magic in the Mail

Something magical happened: Robert Braudt landed on my Facebook wall.

I have always loved letters. Even as an adult I approached the mailbox with childlike anticipation that it might contain something wondrous today, though I rarely met more than the typical splatterings of circulars and bills. I often wondered why, when the prospect of a postcard or a handwritten note fills us with so much glee, we don’t take a moment to write one to a friend more often. Modern life: no time. We move too fast.

Then something magical happened: Robert Braudt landed on my Facebook wall.

Robert was a Minister from Minnesota who had officiated at the wedding of my best friends three years ago. I had been inspired by his nuptial sermon; his words were so universal that even a Jewish girl from Northwest London felt completely included, but we had had virtually no contact since then.

“Presided over a wedding in Kansas City this weekend,” he posted. “I was reminded of an amazing February day when this beautiful young woman with a charming English accent forever touched my heart as she recited e. e. cummings. Have you ever considered recording poetry recitations? It would do wonders on the drive home after a long day at work.”

Now the sentiments were beautiful enough to rosy any girl’s cheeks, but the timing was opportune. I had gone to Mississippi in the spring to rebuild a house and had returned with a nasty case of Lyme Disease. When Robert’s post landed from the sky, I had been under house arrest for five months. As my body battled with spirochetes, I pondered Robert’s question and an idea took hold.

I emailed my friends just before Thanksgiving. “What’s your favorite poem?” I asked. And because when you’re sick you get to ask for the ridiculous, I asked them to get out pen and paper, write out their favorite and mail it to me.

I felt a little embarrassed after I’d hit send. I was fully ready for the scoffing responses: Nicola’s gone crazy and thinks she’s guest-starring in a Jane Austen novel. But to my utter amazement and joy, that didn’t happen at all. Slowly, handwritten poems, along with explanations of why my friends’ loved them, started landing in my mailbox.

Then one afternoon something astounding happened. I got a letter from Faye Moskowitz of Washington DC that included the poem “The Maid of Athens, ’ere we part” by Lord Byron. I stood reading Faye’s memories of first reading Byron’s declaration of love back in Detroit when she was 12 years old, how it made her weep the first time she read it and how it still makes her weep now when she recites it from memory. I adored the poem, but the thing is, I had never heard of Faye Moskowitz before.

Later I would discover that a mutual friend had forwarded my request to Faye.

Since then, as my request gets forwarded and forwarded, more and more poems have landed in my mailbox. Each one brings me a new thrill. But the morning that Faye Moskowitz entered my life was the moment that proved to me that for all of technology, for all the business and the exhaustion we encounter every day, there is still magic floating around out there and sometimes, when you ask loudly enough, it lands right there in your mailbox.


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