Monday, August 12, 2013

A Small Moment of Christmas

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Having survived the evacuation of several war zones this summer, you wait for a package to arrive from the front lines, sent from the enemy: things you left behind.  Will he send them to you, or not?

He does, and the box arrives today.

There are very few things that you left behind in the living quarters, before the last battle: a green-striped dress, an old t-shirt, a tiara.  Two dirty socks, three dirty underwear, one box of raisins.  You get it all back today, all in a shoebox.  The raisins raise your eyebrows, but your shoulders shrug it off.  You’re just happy to see the dress.

Nothing is clean.

The enemy had left things behind in your own living quarters before—a jacket one time, some underwear the next—but he got all of that back, and clean too, with nice notes.  Sometimes a silly memento, like an individual-sized Kleenex package decorated with March of Dimes stickers.  Why not?

You know you’ve been living in self-hostage, kept by this one package of potentially returnable personal possessions.  Your steel-coated bullet-protected ballsy self kept appearing and repeating: “You don’t need those things!  Forget about them!  Be glad that you weren’t delivered home piece by piece in Hefty bags!”

Your pummeled self kept saying, “But I want those things.  I wouldn’t have brought them there if I didn’t like them.  I knew I had to travel light.  It was my prettiest dress, my prettiest shirt.  I liked those underwear.  That was my favorite tiara.”

It’s been a long time since a box in the mail has meant so much.  The enemy’s handwriting is difficult to look at—his address and name, your address and name—but God you hope you know what’s inside.  It could be anything: a chide, a threat, a desire, a request, another hunger, something else withheld.  But in reality, you know he wouldn’t take the time to send nothing, and you think you know he’s human enough not to send nonsense.  Not civil enough to send clean clothes or March of Dimes stickers, still hostile enough to send the old box of raisins, but…not crazy.

In a small moment of Christmas, you restrain yourself from tearing the package open so you can photograph it for posterity.  Why not?  When will you ever get something like this again?  You tear into it and see immediately that it’s everything you wanted, but it all needs to be washed.
30 minutes later, it is. 

Sometimes, first days back to school can be hard, especially if you have been to Bad Camp all summer.  Everybody is bright-eyed but you; everyone has better stories.  You are still wearing a Band-Aid over the worst skinned knee ever when you are supposed to be waving your pom-poms.  You are still biting the nails on the hand that’s supposed to be feeding you when what you really need is a new pedicure.  Anyone can see that, but you.

You smile the brightness that’s expected of you and exit before the first tears fall.  You are lucky to be such a talented laundress, and you look forward to wearing the striped green dress.

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