Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Parcel Postpartum

On January 1, 1913, the U.S. Post Office began its parcel post service, increasing the size of packages they were willing to deliver from letter size only, to a whopping eleven pound weight limit.

What does this mean to you, you might ask? Specifically, why does this historical event allow you to feel better about your parenting decisions?

Great question!

Chances are you are not over 115 years old. If you are, please check your pulse, because you probably died a few years ago, and you need to let someone know. And if you’re not over 115, it probably never occurred to you to mail your baby somewhere.

See, right there, you can just take a quick second to pat yourself on the back for being an awesome parent. And even if you don’t have kids, you can still pat yourself on the back for being an outstanding human, because I doubt it would have occurred to you, given a scenario where you had offspring, to slap some stamps on them and drop them at the post office.

Great job everybody. You’re absolutely killing it!

The same cannot be said for Jesse and Mathilda Beagle of Ohio. What Mathilda lacked in the cool name department, she more than failed to make up for in the motherhood department. Jesse Beagle is actually a pretty cool name, and Jesse and the Beagles would make a decent name for a rock band, but let’s face facts: as a father, Jesse came up short.

Back in 1913, just a few weeks after the parcel post service launched, Jesse and Mathilda, who may or may not have had warts and a hump, respectively, mailed their eight-month-old son, James, to his grandmother. I am not making that up.

Many of you, in this day and age, will simply not be able to believe this story. Especially those of you who have never let your children farther away from you than the end of the leash. But trust me, every word of this story is historical fact.

Baby James was just shy of the eleven-pound weight limit for packages, and delivering him to his grandma, who lived just a few miles away in the hip, happening party town of Batavia, Ohio (which, amazingly, still exists on Google Maps) only cost his parents fifteen cents in postage.

Can you believe that? Fifteen cents! Nowadays the Post Office would charge at least $7.50 to mail a ten-pound baby.

So many questions are raised by Jesse and Mathilda’s decision to mail little James to his grammy. If she was only a few miles away, why not just ride him over there yourself on one of your trusty mules? Why pay the exorbitant fee of fifteen cents to mail him when it only cost a rabbit and two chickens for the doctor to deliver him in the first place? Shouldn’t he have weighed more than ten pounds at eight months old? Was handing your baby off to a stranger and crossing your fingers that he got to your mom’s house safely worth it just for a date night with a woman named Mathilda who may or may not have had a hump? And as far as baby James’ trip is concerned, was there an in-flight bottle service? And probably the most pressing of all the questions, after news of the incident surfaced, why weren’t both Jesse and Mathilda immediately sterilized?

And believe it or not, the Beagles were not the only wildly irresponsible parents willing to mail their children across the state or even the country. As the post office increased the parcel post weight limit to a more child-friendly fifty pounds, more and more parents started slapping postage on their kids.

The post office immediately recognized the potential issues that could occur if people continued to mail their children. The number of mail carriers being bitten by petulant toddlers was beginning to outpace the more common threats of stray dogs and rabid postal mules. And many of the postal workers were complaining that, while mule poop was expected, dealing with poopy diapers was not in their original civil servant contract.

Thankfully, our agile and ever so efficient government jumped on the problem right away. The practice of mailing children was only allowed for seven more years, with Washington putting its foot down in 1920, saying enough is enough. We simply can’t have any more rabid postal mules being bitten by petulant toddlers! No more mailing kids!

Thanks, Washington, for continuing to fall short of our already low expectations. And thanks, Jesse and Mathilda Beagle, for paving the way for all of us to feel a little bit better about our parenting decisions.

Chin up, America! Unless you’ve ever shipped your eight-month-old over to grandma’s house in an Uber, you’re doing a great job.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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