The World’s Best Care Packages

The World’s Best Care Packages

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

The World’s Best Care Packages

What a wonderful thing is the mail,
capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.
~Author Unknown

Recently, I found out that a friend of mine from England now teaches in upstate Connecticut. Through the time machine of Facebook, we realized that we were near each other, so Simon drove down to Greenwich for a visit.

Twenty-two years before, I was an English-Speaking Union Fellow, and the only American, at King’s College, a boarding school in Taunton, Somerset, in England. Simon was on my hall in Meynell house just across the way from me. We also played on the basketball team together. During his recent Connecticut visit, though, our biggest laugh ended up being over the number and size of care packages my mother had mailed me while I was at King’s for that year. It was my first time away from home, and I was eighteen.

Mom’s famous cardboard boxes alone attracted quite a bit of attention, given that they were absolutely massive. Almost every three weeks, I would receive a huge parcel filled with Kool-Aid, Pop-Tarts and candy bars, which attracted the entire school to my room. When the gift arrived, I received a small slip in my mailbox. Then I would retrieve the box in one building and schlep it quite a ways to my dormitory. Consequently, everyone—masters and students—could see me hobbling along with my back-crippling care package. I happily disseminated the international goodies to my friends. Butterfingers, Milky Ways, Snickers.

As Simon and I reminisced recently, we laughed about how her gifts ended up being his introduction to Pop-Tarts, an item he was thrilled to buy once he was in the States as a teacher.

However, to me, those packages became Mom’s way of showing affection when I was not home. She also handwrote many lovely letters, which I still have saved in a box in my closet. One particular package contained a tiny stuffed animal called a Pound Puppy. The guys on my hall, including Simon, used to kidnap Pound Puppy and hold him captive.

If you have ever been away from home for a long time and have ached to return, you know that any mail from your family is beautiful. Little mail is wonderful. Big mail is a dream!

Times have changed. I’m forty-one. I don’t eat Pop-Tarts that much anymore, but when I had one of the worst years of my life in 2008 (as many did), the packages continued to come. Sometimes they would have a nice herringbone wool jacket from the thrift store. Or used J. Crew dress shoes. Or a cutout cartoon from the paper.

Mom even came up to Connecticut from Virginia on the train and bought me the silver trumpet I now play, purchased for ten dollars at a yard sale. It is handmade and vintage silver. She also sends me music books. Most of these things she buys in thrift shops, places we enjoy visiting when we’re together.

I can picture her finding the stuff, gathering it on her dining room table, making the trip to the post office and, finally, taping it up so well that a machete couldn’t even rip it. I always need a knife to slice through the inches of tape. Once the top is open, I pull out all the balled newspaper stuffed in there for insulation. Then the fun begins. What has she thought to send me this time? A book she knows I will like? Some comfortable clothes? A St. Joseph statue?

On my visits home to Virginia, there is usually a little surprise waiting. Last time, it was a ceramic Elvis with a blue shirt and black hair. Of course, I always score a free haircut and leave with all the dirty laundry I brought cleaned and folded.

Her most recent package contained a small wooden carved typewriter that had been painted black and white. It’s an intricate paperweight that she bought for maybe fifty cents. And it looks like a miniature old Underwood. I even cut out a small piece of paper that says, “Type something” to put on the little typewriter. It resides here on my desk, an ongoing reminder that Mom is thinking of me.

The surprise boxes are still coming after twenty-three years. They seem to arrive when I need them, possessing a sweet maternal timing that lets me know she loves me. I look around my apartment at my ceramic Elvis, my miniature typewriter and, yes, my Pound Puppy on my bed, and I’m quite sure that my mother’s care packages are the best in the world. My friend Simon will certainly back me up on this. I have international proof.

~Mark Damon Puckett

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