Handle with Care
By Emily Parke Chase –
What college student does not delight to open up his or her mailbox and find a request to pick up a package at the desk? Thus I bounced from my mailbox to the counter, and the woman in charge handed me a small brown carton swathed in tape.
This was the first and only time in all my years at college in Ithaca, New York that I had received a care package from my home in Arizona. I eagerly tore off the wrapping to reveal…a box of candied apricots. Apricots? My pleasure in receiving a package turned to confusion. What was my mother thinking? But here in my hands was a tray of shiny apricots, each glazed with a thick sugar syrup coating.
My friends had received stranger gifts from home. My roommate’s mother once sent an envelope full of little packages of ketchup and mustard that she had picked up with her order at a fast food restaurant. Perhaps she thought we would find them handy in our campus residence hall? And we might have used them but she forgot to write “hand cancel” on the envelope, so they went through the automatic cancellation process. The machine pressed the contents flatter than the postage stamp. Red and yellow stains obliterated all but the address.
Another thoughtful mother mailed an Easter basket. She went to her local K-mart and picked out a large basket filled with chocolate bunnies, plastic grass and marshmallow eggs, all wrapped in single sheet of cellophane. She tied a tag to the handle and dropped in in the mail. I can only imagine that the postal service accepted it as a challenge. In my mind’s eye I see each carrier setting the basket on the seat next to him in the truck, handing it gently to the next person, and the final mail carrier delivering it in triumph to our dorm. Not a jelly bean was jostled out of place.
Still, as I looked at the strange gift in my hands, I wondered what had prompted my mother to send this package of fruit. I did what any intelligent Ivy-League student would do. I called home.
“Hi, Mom. I got your package today.”
My mother chuckled, thus confirming my suspicion that a story lurked under that sickly sweet glaze.
“Your brother just moved out of his apartment in California.”
I knew my brother was leaving the country for a year. He was driving across the country before taking a flight to Greece, and was stopping to see relatives along the way, including my folks in Phoenix. Mom explained that he found the apricots at the back of a cupboard in his kitchen, and rather than toss them, gave them to her. She didn’t know what to do with them and so she mailed them to me.
With a saccharine smile, I thanked her for thinking of me and hung up the phone. Unlike her, I knew exactly what to do with these super-sweet fruit-flavored sugar cubes.
My brother was due to arrive in Ithaca the next week.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, they are sweeter than candied apricots” (Psalm 119:103, paraphrased).
(Send all care packages to the author at emilychase.com and read about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up!)