Mary Downing thought her assignment at the Charles Street post office would be temporary when she came there 15 years ago, since she was hoping to work closer to her home on the North Shore; little did she know, however, she would soon find a second home here on Beacon Hill.
“I’ve seen mothers have babies and watched those babies grow into teenagers, and now they have families of there own,” said Downing, who started working for the United States Postal Service in 1985, came to Beacon Hill following a 10-year stint at the Kenmore Square post office. “I’ve seen it all.”
Downing will retire from the USPS on Jan. 30 to care for her aging mother, and to undertake what she describes as a “major project” – cleaning the 11-bedroom house in Lynn where she and her six siblings grew up.
Downing won’t be retiring from her second career as a clown, however, and she is looking forward to attending the World Clown Association’s annual convention from March 22 to 26, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla.
While she was fascinated by clowns since childhood – to the point where her mother made her clown costumes to dress in for Halloween – Downing didn’t pursue “clowning” until 1998.
It was then that Downing, who has 17 nieces and nephews, as well as 15 great-nieces and –nephews, accompanied two of her nephews to a friend’s birthday party.
When the friend got sick, the party was called off, but Downing decided to cheer the youngster up by dressing as a clown and delivering a small birthday cake and balloon arrangement to him.
Downing put the clown costume on the mothballs for a while afterwards until one of her nieces saw photos of Downing from the party and convinced her to revive the routine for her niece’s birthday party.
Downing agreed and, in preparation, went to Diamond Magic in Peabody to brush up on some magic tricks. The proprietor not only taught her a few tricks, but also set her on the path to “clown college.”
But for now, Downing is enjoying her last remaining days working in a community she loves and one that has embraced her in kind.
“I’ll just miss everybody so much,” she said.
The following is her letter to her many friends and customers:
“Yes, the rumor is true. I will be retiring from the Charles St. Station Post Office as of Jan. 30, 2020.
When I arrived at the Charles Street Station approximately 15 years ago, I was never really planning on staying on that long. My plans were to find a position closer to home. But the love and support throughout the years from all of you in the Beacon Hill community kept me at the job that I loved serving.
Now in saying that, not every day was a good day, but I found something good in every day. I watched your children grow. Some even to the point of getting married. I totally enjoyed their excitement of coming in to visit and getting stickers from me. I even had one that kept their stickers under the table.
One day, they were caught by their nanny who asked what they were doing, to which they replied they were “adding to [their] sticker collection.”
I’ve had a young lady mention just recently that she remembered coming and receiving stickers when she was a little girl, and now, she is a teenager. When I mentioned her name, she was shocked that I knew it.
I enjoyed them coming in and showing me their wiggly tooth. Their excitement in their grades, their college acceptances, I could go on and on. I appreciated your waving of greetings through the window on your way to school, work or your way home. I have met many that have come and gone and have returned to greet me again. This is what I will miss the most. The love and support you have all showed and the friendships that I have made.
Although this is a scary thought to retire, especially at a young age than most, I do have an aging mom, and her health is my utmost concern. My plans are to take care of her, and we will hobby our quilts and craft projects together. Besides the big project of cleaning up the 11-room home I shared with six other siblings, I will try to spend some more time in my home down south.
In closing, I know that I have been blessed to have worked at a company for 34 years. It has provided me with a pension and a 401 plan that I contributed to throughout my career. I also know that I have been blessed to know you and to be able to serve you and with that I will leave you with an Irish blessing: “May the light always find you on a dreary day, when you need to be home, may you find your way. May you always have courage to take a chance, and never find frogs in your underpants.”
I bet you thought it was going to be: “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rainfall soft upon your fields. Yes, until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hands.”