Around the beginning of February, my mom said that she would surprise me with a birthday gift in the mail — something practical that I would love. For many years, birthday (and Christmas) lists have been the way for our family to communicate our gift wants, and this was the first year in ages that I had not submitted my list. So the idea of a surprise filled me with more anxiety than my usual high amount.
Weeks went by. I checked in with my mom, asking if I would have to be home to sign for the hulking, brooding gift that vowed to scare me with its mysterious presence. I was assured that it would fit in a mailbox. I was still hesitant.
It was the week of my birthday. Then the day before. Then the day of. The gift had not arrived. My mom fretted that it was the first birthday in a while — maybe ever (my paraphrasing) — that I didn’t have something from her on my special day. That it should have came, as it had been mailed the previous week.
She faulted the postal service, fearing that some unscrupulous mail person had stolen her first-born’s present. She lamented not tracking the package. I was distraught; I didn’t want to see her upset. I didn’t want her to blame herself. I assured her that it would arrive — maybe by the weekend.
But she wanted to get me something anyway, something that she knew would arrive. So the following day, I asked for a Blu-ray from Amazon — something I wanted. It would be a few days late, but it would be appreciated in its own way.
The weekend came and went, and the package had not arrived. We wrote it off. I didn’t ask what it was, as knowing would have hurt more than not receiving it. Knowing it meant so much for her to send it.
A week after my birthday, the Blu-ray from Amazon arrived. Reliably in the manila envelope. It was nice — more than nice — and will occupy a space on my DVD shelf for years to come. But it was known. The mysterious package, it was not.
This afternoon, I walked home from my local grocer, thinking to myself that even years — much like the even Star Trek movies in the series (before the reboots) — have been superior to the odd-numbered ones. That such years have included trips abroad — much like the one this year I planned for a three-country jaunt — Switzerland, England, and France. I had been planning this trip for months, and my mom, long my sounding board on many a thing, had been one of the first people I confided in regarding my plans. Hell, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, either.
I arrived home to a Priority Mail package addressed to me from my mom. It was too big to fit in my mailbox, so it was sitting on top of circular ads. Now THIS was a surprise. I got excited, but with understandable hesitation. My first instinct, once I could shut my apartment door behind me, was to rip it open and see what was inside. But I knew someone who would want to know of its contents even more.
I opened the large Priority Mail envelope which contained a second, smaller, manila envelope that tightly held a third, card-sized envelope. A card envelope, like the others, addressed to me — with a RETURN TO SENDER sticker on the front and a black marker crossing out the wrong zip code. I narrated most of this to my mom on the other end of the phone, my voice barely masking my awe and excitement as I opened the original gift as she intended — two weeks to the day she originally sent it, and 11 days after my birthday.
It was a birthday card. And Euros. And British Pounds. Foreign currency for my pending trip abroad.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I couldn’t mask it, as calm as I tried to be. I thanked her repeatedly, honored that she thought of me in such a way, amused by the triple-security effort (with tracking!) to make sure her first born would get his gift.
It wasn’t until I got off of the phone with her that I understood the gravity of her effort. Knowing that after she pondered what would make me happy and be useful, that she likely got on the bus (her main mode of transportation, as she’s a city dweller) to go to the bank to exchange green dollars to technicolor notes, and that she agonized as the days surrounding my birthday came and went without a word about the whereabouts of that present, I am truly awestruck at how much she cared and how loved I am. And how much I love her.
Thank you, Mom.