You Were: The Mail Lady

July 11, 2010

For the later half of the 18th century, you were the mail lady on a tiny island in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the very tip of South America.

One hundred and fifty years earlier, three families had arrived on this desolate isle from points unknown. They had skin the color of old bronze and eyes the pale blue of icebergs. Europeans and Native South Americans both claimed the inhabitants of your island as their own. Your true origins were far more complex than most visitors could ever have realized.

The island your foremothers settled was the last port before the dreaded Cape Horn where williwaw winds drove ships into rocks and sunken ice mountains speared the bellies of boats. Sailors would drop anchor off your shores and wait for the courage to round the horn. They all knew there was an excellent chance they would never make it to the other side of the continent.

While they waited, those who were able spent their time writing letters. Or drinking. Or both. (The 18th century equivalent of drunk dialing.) They wrote to their sweethearts, their mothers, their friends. They ended old arguments, confessed their true love, or promised small legacies to illegitimate children. When the sailors were done with their letters, they gave them all to you.

The title of island mail lady was always passed from mother to daughter, and at the age of 24, you inherited the job when your beloved mother was swept away by a wave. The duties were dangerous, and women were only allowed to start delivering the mail once they had given birth to a daughter of their own.

On your thirteenth birthday, your mother had taught you how to identify the sailors destined to perish at the bottom of the sea. The day after your mother’s death, you chose your first mate from among the doomed sailors.  You were 25 when your first daughter (and heir) was born, and you began delivering the mail three weeks later.

Trained in survival and all-weather hiking, you set out alone with your bag full of mail, following secret trails carved by your grandmothers. You crossed ice sheets, tundra, and rocky beaches packed with amorous sea lions. You stopped only to sleep and to pay tribute to the three of your ancestors whose perfectly preserved bodies remained frozen along the trail. Finally, a week later, you reached the other side of the continent and a tiny town run by another branch of your family.

Here, the ships would stop once more after they had made the trip around Cape Horn. There were far fewer of them, and the sailors on deck stared at the waves with haunted eyes. Those who had made the trip for the first time wore new golden hoop earrings in their left ears. You gave the mail to the survivors. They considered it a sacred duty to see that the letters were delivered.

You served as mail lady for forty years. Your only vacations coincided with the births of your fifteen children. Though their fathers were all from different lands, each of your sons and daughters had the bronze skin and blue eyes of your island’s people.

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4 Responses to “You Were: The Mail Lady”

  1. Lioness Says:

    Thanx Kirsten! But fifteen???? I hope elements of past lives don’t transfer to the present (that element anyway!)


    • Back in those days, everyone had fifteen kids!


      • BTW, your last life is my favorite so far. (Not that I don’t love them all!) But for some reason, this one really speaks to me. There was something almost magical about your picture. I immediately got an image in my head of a lone woman standing at the edge of an iceberg watching ships with tall sails pass by in the gloaming.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PenguinTeen, PageTurnersBlog. PageTurnersBlog said: RT @PenguinTeen: Who Were You? #12: The Mail Lady http://tinyurl.com/2bg9yk7 #theeternalones #penguinfive […]


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