Your package has arrived …

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk

I’m so old that I remember when getting a package delivered to your doorstep was a really, really big deal.

Today? Not so much.

Both the UPS and FedEx delivery people know my house well. Even our neighborhood letter carrier sometimes puts boxes on my front porch. And many times, those boxes just sit there for hours, even when I’ve seen them delivered from my office window.

Excitement induced by the arrival of a package doesn’t happen like it did when I was a child.

When I was a young girl, getting a package from the post office or delivered at home was always an event. Most of the time those packages were themselves connected to an event – birthday, Christmas, wedding, graduation. They weren’t from stores with swooshy smiles, but from grandparents, aunts and uncles. Return addresses were always firmly affixed to the left corner, which always heightened the anticipation.

Mother always got to open and peek inside the boxes in case whatever was inside wasn’t wrapped. Presents were to be surprises and opened only on the occasion for which they were intended. Sometimes a Christmas package from afar could be opened on Christmas Eve, but that was an exception and most of the time signaled that what was inside the box was probably pajamas.

Even pajamas, however, took on a special glow if they came “in the post.”

If a package arrived without warning, all kinds of excitement ensued. “Oh my goodness, we have a package from your Bubbie and Granddaddy Mack!” Mother would share. “What on earth could this be? It isn’t anybody’s birthday…”

The special parcel would be hoisted onto the kitchen counter, and we would gather around, waiting for the tape to be slit and the box opened. A letter of explanation would usually be found on the top of whatever was in the box. The box might contain an item that had been left at their house over the summer visit and was now being returned. Perhaps it was something Bubbie, my father’s mother, had found that belonged to my dad that she now wanted my mother, brother and me to have.

On some occasions, however, it would be something from my Uncle Jimmy, my father’s brother, who was in the Air Force and would often buy his nieces and nephews “exotic” gifts from faraway lands. As I write this, I am looking at a dancer – a metal figurine that Uncle Jimmy sent me when I was about 12. At one time, she was part of a trio, but her partners have been lost through the years. Still, I remember when she arrived in a box that also contained something for my brother — an unexpected package that caused much excitement!

I suppose there might have been boxes that arrived that weren’t from friends or relatives, but, for the life of me, I can’t remember any or where they would have come from. If we ordered things from the Sear & Roebuck catalog, those items would have arrived in boxes. Most of the time, however, the catalog was used as a Wishing Book for an upcoming trip to Jackson to the Sears store so things could be tried on and examined before hard-earned money was spent on anything. Sometimes we would find something “similar” to the wished-for dress at the local Davis Dry Goods and have to make do with that.

A box arrived at my house yesterday that was unexpected. We had no orders outstanding from Amazon or anywhere else. I got no alerts on my phone that a package was being delivered. Yet there it was, a box on the front porch with an obscure return address: Order Fulfilment.

I began to feel that twinge of excitement, that anticipation of the unknown that I remembered from my childhood.

When my husband opened the package, it was a replacement part for a piece of medical equipment we have at the house. Evidently it has to be replaced every few months, so they just send you one.

Opening packages just ain’t what it used to be …

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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