Michele Sbrana

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

Michele Sbrana
Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

I opened up a box today delivered by my favorite colored truck…brown. The brown truck reminds me of the days of my wedding when we were visited daily by the man in brown shorts…bringing us gifts of our fine china place settings (hmm, when was the last time I dusted those off and put them to use?), coffee grinders (the $10 or less gift of choice) and of course, my favorite, the see through cookware that was popular for about twenty minutes back in the late eighties that I purposely ruined within a year!

However, this package wasn’t filled with gifts wrapped in white with silver bows.  Enclosed in this cumbersome cardboard container were things like mismatched socks, ball pump needles and a stapler void of staples. Where did this package originate? Why, my Mother, naturally. The box was overflowing with items left at her home during our interim stay before our cross-country move.

I’ve just moved away from my Mom and family for the second time in my life.  The first time was for college and it was a mere six hours from San Francisco down the California coast to idyllic Santa Barbara.  My parents looked for any excuse to come visit this sun-drenched paradise (“It’s your half birthday, sweetheart?  We’ll be down pronto to take you to our favorite beachside café for sunset.”)True, this go round of relocation to the East Coast is slightly more dramatic, but there’s still just a six hour distance… if you take a direct flight (only available these days via the Concorde or Air Force One) and the New England climate is undoubtedly a little less tropical than my collegiate surroundings…however, having the only grandchildren gives me unyielding visiting and care package leverage!

And, not surprisingly, this package had my Mom’s signature item enclosed…the traditional trimly cut out article from the local newspaper or church bulletin that either brings me to tears or righteous indignation.  The articles are my Mom’s way of showing me she’s been thinking of her eldest daughter… an article on parenting strategies entitled “Boys Who Beg for Buzz Cuts and their Mothers Who Refuse,” news from ‘The Church Mouse’ spreading the word of my youth pastor’s retirement party or the local county’s further library budget cuts—so their doors are now only open on Sundays from 6:00 to 7:30 AM and Fridays at midnight! 

This time it was an obituary piece on my childhood mailman, Flip…it goes without saying that if your childhood mailman delivers candy canes on Christmas, balloons on birthdays and gardenias on graduation to all the children on his route, there’s not enough Kleenex stocked in the house let alone the local Costco to wipe away the tears when reading his tribute!!

My Mom has a spot in her home on an antique chair where she stacks said items of interest or things she picks up hither and yon for her three children, their significant others and now her grandchildren.What’s so wonderful and albeit frightening about this thoughtful attribute is that it’s in fact hereditary.  I distinctly recall my grandfather doing the exact same thing to my Mom as I was growing up.  So it’s just a matter of time before I have a pair of sharpened orange handled scissor at the ready as I peruse the morning newspaper!

Of course boxes thoughtfully filled with miscellany is just the tip of the “My Mom is the Best Mom” Hallmarkesque iceberg.  When I was a kid, she was the most adventurous Mom in town to be sure.Take, for instance, the time she took it upon herself to pile her three precious children in our silver Granada on a weeklong trek up to the Northwest to meet my Dad in Vancouver as he wrapped a film project. Sounds simple, right?  It always seemed simple until I became a Mommy and realized that she was more than ambitious and adventurous…she was… somewhere between inane and insane.

You think I’m being callous?  Did I mention that those three children were the ripe old ages of eight (me) five and eighteen months old?  Did I mention that we camped under the starry skies in a borrowed cramped tent (requiring assembly each and every night) all along the west coast?  And that one of her children—okay, it was me—had a tendency to sleep walk?  In addition she had at least one occasion during our journey in which she had to leave my brother and baby sister sleeping in the canvas abode to search for her nocturnal wanderer.  I’m quite sure there’s a statute of limitations on child abandonment, neglect or endangerment…especially if your grown daughter writes about it for the entire world to read!

Admittedly that particular vacation remains one of my favorite summer memories, but audacity is not her only her claim to fame.  Creativity a la 70’s is right up there…Take for example the time…no make that two times…wherein she created rather elaborate costumes to celebrate a significant holiday.  For the Bicentennial celebration, my Mom created a Betsy Ross costume that would make Vera Wang look like a hack…. complete with the colonial kerchief atop my braided bun…and no, the photos have not been transferred to digital nor will they ever be!

Of course, the year she discovered her direct relation to a Mayflower passenger out came the Singer yet again resulting in the creation of Pilgrim and Native American costumes for each family member to adorn during the Thanksgiving feast at my grandparents’ home.  Now as cool as it was for teenagers to dress as Colonial Standish and Squanto, the war paint on my grandmother’s antique damask tablecloth was the grande finale in my Mom’s not so hidden dream to be a Hollywood costume designer!

There are many other tales to tell about my Mom, but I’ve got to spend more time in hypnotherapy to reveal them.  I’m so grateful to my Mom for setting a standard of excellence with her spirit of thoughtfulness, creativity and adventure.  So thank you Mom for the inspiration.  And keep those brown trucks in business…but next time, could you include some of those cut out cookies…perhaps in the shape of Betsy Ross or Squanto?