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Commentary: Christmas at the Kenmore Post Office

By Ed Adamczyk

Buffalo, NY – This Christmas Eve, Kenmore's churches will gear up for choirs, candle-lighting, and capacity crowds, and the places thus far busiest, this December, will fall quiet. The stores, the supermarkets, the liquor store so crowded it requires traffic control, will finally see a silent night.

On a customer-per-square-foot basis, nothing can beat this month's action at the tiny post office at Delaware and Tremont Avenues. It was built a generation ago, and Kenmore outgrew it the day after it opened. Its parking lot holds perhaps twenty cars, fewer when the postal vans are loading and unloading, and the day-long in-and-out has kept the intersection nicely clogged for days.

The official Christmas stamps --- your choice, Madonna or Santa --- don't seem to be moving all that well, and neither are the ones honoring Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but the United States Postal Service is deeply involved in a newer holiday tradition. Nearly everyone visiting the post office brings packages to mail.

It is certainly not unique to Western New York, but perhaps more profoundly felt, here. More and more, we now have out-of-town loved ones to whom we send Christmas gifts. Not Christmas cards --- e-mail has nicely replaced that old practice --- but gifts, the ones we once handed over, and then watched with anticipation while they were opened.

Parcels go to California, Florida, and Europe. To Texas, North Carolina, and Asia. To downstate, to college, to Iraq. Mine went to Denver.

When we stock up on gift-wrapping material now, we also know enough to buy brown paper and mailing labels.

The mood in the post office has been surprisingly festive. The personnel behind the counters know what they're in for, and are delivering service the way they do in television commercials. The lines have been long, the aforementioned parking lot an adventure, and there is an unspoken little heartbreak in presenting Christmas gifts in this manner. But we in line chat amiably, carrying on about who is getting what, where they are, whether they are daughters or nephews or friends. Equally unspoken is that, even if our recipients are not from Kenmore, we would rather have them here, not there.

The "postal patrons" bring them in one at a time, or six at a time. The small, flat packages imply CD-ROMs full of family photographs. The rectangular ones are, hopefully, big, noisy toys for far-away grandchildren. The round ones, shaped like little snare drums, are full of homemade cookies. This is the reality of Christmas in the twenty-first century; with certain people in our lives, this is as close as we get to sharing the spirit of the day.

The Christmas holiday typically is, in parts, a little convivial, a little holy, and a little lonely. This year, I'll fill the slack moments comfortably daydreaming not about a sleigh full of merchandise, but about the airport in Buffalo. Airplanes full of cookies are taking off in the cold night, for destinations around the world.

Listener-Commentator Ed Adamczyk is a columnist with the Tonawanda News.

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