She knew from the moment she saw the perfectly shaped box that she would send it. Knew. As much as one who had teeter-tottered on the idea for months could know. But she saw the box with the words “HANDLE WITH CARE” branded across the sides and she said this is it. It’s a sign. I’m meant to send it. So she hoarded the box away in her room as she procured the items that would fill it.
Gummy bears and root beer. And not just any gummy bears and not just any root beer. The Black Forest 5lb bag of gummy bears and a 6 pack of Barq’s root beer. It’s the specific details, the little things that must go in the box. Well and a letter.
But she went to the store to buy the perfect items to go into the perfect box she couldn’t find anything perfect enough. It wasn’t the right brand or the right size. She even bemoaned the lack of red gummy bears in one pack. Nothing was good enough.
So she abandoned her perfect gifts in the perfect box idea and decided to send a plantable card instead. She searched the hipster stores in her town but to no avail. It was a corny thought. Signing it, “May something grow from this,” or something equally trite and 9pm cable tv drama-ish. It was also an allusion to the rose plant that she couldn’t keep alive. It wasn’t the only thing that died that season.
Christmas was approaching and that box with that irritatingly common slogan glared at her from across the room; HANDLE WITH CARE. So she huffed, grabbed her coat and hit the streets. At this point she couldn’t wrestle with the idea of perfection she was just trying to make it happen. She bought 3 off brand bags of gummy bears and whatever root beer was on sale by the case at the gas station and headed home.
She grabbed the box from where it haunted her, crumpled up some wrapping paper for cushion, placed the candy and sodas in the box as artistically as one can and started to close the box. She had just started to tape the box shut when she remembered it. She grabbed her notebook, ripped the pages out while looking wistfully at the festive parchment she purchased for such an occasion as this. But she had no time. So she grabbed the pair of shears she cut her hair with and trimmed the ragged edges. It’s the least she could do.
She rushed it to the post office, making it just in time. The clerked asked her if she wanted to fill out the sender portion but she replied, “They’ll know.” She passed her perfect box off to the stranger in the uniform almost hoping it never reached its intended destination.
He wasn’t expecting a package but then again he never really expected anything. So he was surprised when it was addressed to him and marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas”. When he called his wife that day to speak to his son he asked if it was from him, she told him no and his mother did the same. This made him even more curious about the mysterious package. She crossed his mind like a flash but he shooed that improbable thought away like a fly in late summer. It was bothersome and meant him no good.
Christmas morning came and though he felt the dull familiar ache of waking up to a childless home he was almost excited to open the mystery package. He ripped the packing tape with bare hands and brute strength, just as she knew he would. And as soon as he saw the contents, a knowing smile crept across his face. So he grabbed a pack of candy and the letter and settled in on the couch. And just as he was about to read the letter he reached for another pack, because he knew her.
Merry Christmas!!! I just wanted to send you a little something for the holiday. Something I knew you would like. So I hope you enjoy it.
Hey! I bet you weren’t expecting something from me but you were on my mind and I wanted you to know it. Because its Christmas time and you should let people know how you feel about them. Right?
I never was too good at this. Hi. I hope you are enjoying your little gift. You probably have your mouth full of gummy bears as you read this. But there is one more thing. This year I am giving out confessions. My confession to you is that I still love you and I miss you in my life. I don’t know how what role we are supposed to play but I want you to be here and I want to be there for you. I know we have discussed this with our heads, all the reasons why it cant and wont work but I want to discuss it with our hearts. And all my heart knows is that you loved me better than any man I have ever known.
The other night I dreamt that I was curled up next to you and you had your arm around me and we were watching Jr. play with another child and I kept clutching the corner of the table so he wouldn’t hit his head and you kept telling me he was fine. And in that moment I felt so warm and so right. Then you got up and said you had to go and I realized it was just a dream and the dream started to crumble and fade and my heart was pounding and I was reaching out crying for you not to go. I woke up happy and upset and hurt and my skin was hot and I was alone and none of this matters to you does it…
You told me you don’t deserve me and for months I have been trying to figure out what that means. I think I understand now. You don’t deserve me because of things you have or haven’t done, do or don’t have. And if that’s what you mean, I resent it. Because it is inferring that I am the type of woman that will avail myself to a man because of his resume, his list of accomplishments. You of all people should know me better. I love you for who you are and nothing can change that. You have done more than enough to earn my love, my trust and my devotion.
So on this Christmas morning I am asking, do you want it? Do you Gregory Anthony Dean II, want my love and all that comes with? If you do, if you feel the way I feel, it is yours. But if you don’t, release me. Pack my heart and anything else of mine you have no use for and send it back. Its no pressure and no rush, I just really need your honesty. That could be your gift to me.
He held the pages in his hand and studied them. The curl of her S and her big slanted M, a mountain carved by thousands of years of wind and yet stood strong to protect the rest of her name. But most of all he was impressed that there was not a single tear stain. And in that one missing element he knew that she had gotten stronger and that this was the last time.
He reached for his phone and heard that familiar voice before he had a chance to regret it.
“Hello! Merry Christmas!”
“Hey. I got your package…”