In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. ~ Gibran

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Make and Take, August 28, 2009

Sending Love, Sending Home: The College Care Package

When I was about seven, I had a couple brothers over in Vietnam and Japan during the war. I didn’t really have the full impact of what this meant, except that it made my mom cry, a lot. When the Bob Hope specials or the news came on the TV my parents would not take their eyes off the screen in hopes of seeing their sons. It was a time when communication was not immediate and it could take weeks between letters or the rare phone call that got through. This environment is what formed my awareness of how to send a piece of home to the ones I loved, all wrapped up in a box.
The military was strict as to how big a box could be and what we could send. We became masters at fitting creative and useful things into our box from home.There were always homemade goodies in tins that my mom and I would bake, making sure to include extra for the other GIs in their tents. She would let me pick out the annual Livesaver Candies Christmas box that always came in different themes. Then we would record a cassette tape that had all our voices on it with holiday greetings, news, and funny things that might have happened since the last tape, a far cry from Skype and email. We would send Photos, letters, combs, playing cards, Kleenex, and stamps until the box had every inch packed full. Years later my brothers said it was these boxes that got them through their long, sometimes scary, and always lonely hours away from home.
Now in later years, I know what it is to be away from home. So, when it came time to send my daughter off to Peru for school, I challenged myself to accomplish the same effect, but in an envelope not a box. Sending anything to Peru would have resulted in theft, so an envelope it was. Fun and challenging to find the best card, and then line it with baby photos of her or all pictures of dogs. One time I dragged my husband into one of those mall photo booths and posed for a strip of fun photos to include. There are also many little “flat” things to be found. With the modern benefit of Skype, I would always get a raving critique of her envelope package as she beamed or laughed at my antics. As it came time for her to go to college, I was in heaven to be able to send whatever I wanted. I decided to again challenge myself to send what could fit in a Flat Rate box that you can get at the Post Office. Great little invention that allows you to pack in the weight at a flat rate. For my daughter's freshman year I sent one every 4-6 weeks. I discovered a few things over the years about college care packages and would like to share these with you:
1.) Never send anything too perishable as sometimes it is weeks before a box is picked up and you don’t want it crawling across the desk! I send an email or Facebook to make sure she knows it is on its way.
2.) Always include a lot of extra treats for them to share. For freshman it is a great ice breaker for them to have food to share and get to know their floor mates.
3.) With boys it is all about the food; granola bars, gorp, jerkey, baked goods. With girls think in a theme like Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, birthday, etc. They love a few surprises like fingernail polish or the inside of the box decorated with pictures or funny phrases cut out of magazines.
4.) February is the most depressing and homesick month of the year for a freshman. It is cold, the homework is endless, and there is no end in sight. Make this a cheerful package with a Starbucks card or gift card to get them out of their dorm.
5.) Be aware of their vacation schedule to avoid your box sitting in the mail-room, and know when their tests are to give them a little jolt of support from home. The main element to your box should be what home means to you and your child. Many things translate this love and you know best exactly what that is for your child.
These days my daughter enjoys only a couple care packages a year that I send to surprise her. As her friends from Peru started coming to the states for college, I made a promise to myself to send care packages to all the Peruvian friends their freshman year, because their parents would not be able to. They all took such great care of my daughter while she was in Peru that it gave me great joy to do this for them. On one of my trips to Peru I stocked up on treats that would not spoil and brought them back to put in the Peruvian's care packages. It was great!
So, whatever the reason: college, military, abroad, senior home, think of how you can package love and home in a little box or envelope and send it off to work its magic! Blessings in a box are like a physical hug. It may be what gets the recipient through a very difficult time in their lives!

~ MJ
Copyright 2009 MJ's Table Talk

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