This phrase made its first appearance in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You, but as life imitated art, it became a phrase used by POstables during the often times excruciatingly painful wait for the next time we might see our favorite four postal workers in a new adventure. It has, in fact, been over three years since Signed, Sealed, Delivered: To The Altar aired. Between then and now, there have been sustained efforts calling on Hallmark to invest in more SSD, and that wish was granted with the announcement of what we now know as Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made.
Trusting the timing was also a core element of the narrative of this latest installment as well.
Let's start with some "trust the timing" that was easiest to trace -If Rita had been pregnant, she and Norman would have been well on their way to starting the family they dreamed of - and in a new house to boot. There might not have been a place for Charlie and baby girl Eleanor, and Charlie would have probably put Eleanor up for adoption. Instead, Norman and Rita had a chance to reflect on their desire, above all, to become parents.They subsequently adopted both Charlie AND Eleanor, inviting both of them to share their newly purchased home. Not only that, but Charlie went from almost being unemployed to having a full-time job in the DLO. Norman and Rita created the family they longed for, as unconventional as it might appear. At the same time, could you imagine their family beginning any other way?
For the letter story - the movie begins with a mother rushing her son to the emergency room after a sudden collapse. The little boy’s name is Owen, and in his pocket is a drawing of him with “Ferd” (Fred) who it is revealed is Owen’s best friend. His mother, Robin, attempts to track Fred down, and writes a letter with the drawing enclosed to someone she thinks can help locate him. Ten years later, the undelivered letter enters the custody of our POstables.
Their initial investigation of the letter reveals that Owen has Leukemia. But beyond that, the POstables aren’t able to glean anything useful. Enter Shane’s mother, Sharon McInerney (Sherry Miller), whose keen understanding of first graders interprets the drawing as Owen with a firefighter named Fred, giving the POstables their first solid lead. Utilizing everything at their discretion - from Norman’s network of cousins to their powers of postal discretion, they ultimately determine Fred to be a stuffed doll.
Speaking of timing - If Owen had not let go of Fred, then Fred would not have had the opportunity to show up for Oliver. Fred provided the mirror through which Oliver, and those around him, could perceive the profound wound in Oliver that had yet to heal. That wound, of course, stemming directly from the deeply held identity that he was “not enough” and easily left behind (I did a post after The Road Less Traveled addressing some ways Oliver attempted to navigate this assumption in that film). The mirror was Dumbarton Oaks, the bear given to Oliver by his mother, which he surrendered at the altar of his childhood church when she left the second time. Oliver lost something that couldn’t be replaced (in more ways than one) - so he was intent on restoring what was lost to Owen.
Given this, it’s no surprise that as he faced the reality of “forever” with Shane, Oliver began to panic a bit and spiral a bit back into old habits. Among those old habits, dogged determination to deliver the letter/Fred, a slightly shorter fuse than usual, and clams and red wine - a big red flag!
Of course, on the other side of Oliver’s panic was the covering of love and understanding that surrounded him as he navigated his pain. Shane has always been quick to exercise patience and grace with Oliver, even when addressing the difficult, and the case was no different here. What I found unique and comforting about the process of Oliver’s growth and healing in The Vows We Have Made was how so much of it was drawn from the women in Oliver’s life who “stayed” as Norman put it - women like Ardis Parker Pennington Paine, Theresa Capodiamonte and most notably Mrs. Genzinger, who had been hanging onto Dumbarton Oaks for all these years.
Of all the ShOliver moments throughout the canon, I think this was the one I didn’t know I had truly been waiting to see. Oliver is completely stripped of pretense and armor as he truly pours his heart out to his soon-to-be-wife. I love that Shane wasn’t phased in the least, this scene showed as much about Shane’s evolution as Oliver’s when she declared that she had “prayed with and prayed for” Oliver, and, most importantly, that “[she] will never leave [him].” I think anyone who has ever experienced abandonment got healed here - “they didn’t leave because they figured out who you are, but because they had no clue who they were.” That absolutely stuck with me.
I also like how their wedding gifts to each other seemed to mirror that concept of time and forever. Shane received that necklace/timepiece and Shane, ever the careful listener, produced Dumbarton Oaks (who adorably - and meaningfully - became a guest at the wedding).
Eric, Kristin, Yan-Kay Crystal, Geoff, Gregory, Jill, Zak (and Sherry!) - what genuine, grounded and lovely performances you put in The Vows We Have Made. Heart and humor, heartbreak and healing, you all put in everything you had. That effort permeates every word, every look and even the silence. I hope there’s a place for us to be blessed by more of that in the future.
Martha - I know how much you put into this. Thank you for letting me be some small part of it. Being your writing assistant was the biggest blessing and privilege I never expected. Thank you for being the vessel through which the Lord continues to pour out healing and peace into a broken world. You, too, are a living letter, and you’ve stepped into a world that needed the heart and humor and faith only you can bring - and the world is better for it now, and will continue to be in the future.
Let me call out a few things before we close out this review of The Vows We Have Made - yes, Shane’s sister was notably absent. I see her as the equivalent of Norman’s missing parents. From a storytelling perspective, she would have overshadowed Sharon. There would have been so many questions about Alex that the story couldn’t possibly accommodate Sharon and Alex both. A little sad Becky wasn't here, but, again, she would have made more questions than this script could have handled.
The second thing I want to draw attention to is Oliver’s final line, “Forever the POstables.” Please see the “Forever” not as a “goodbye,” but as a moment of Oliver being healed enough to use the word/concept he avoided this entire film. This movie is absolutely the closing of a chapter, but not the book.
Fortunately for you, POstables, you won't have to wait for more post-premiere breakdowns. Come back this week for the music and timeline post as per usual. Of course we'll have to address all the easter eggs and callbacks. More content is in the works.
So, was The Vows We Have Made worth the wait for you? What were you favorite moments? Share everything in the comments!
Forever a POstable,