Sunday, December 18, 2005

Brown Christmas

The last Saturday before Christmas in the UPS Store: long lines extending out the door, a thirty minute wait. Does this happen in small town America as well? It felt like a part of living in the city, where so many are transplants from other places. It's not like the rural upstate town my mother currently lives in, where entire extended families are in the same zip code.

But, no, tracking long lines in post offices is atypical morning news show staple during the holiday season. Still, I always imagine those folk are sending gifts to their young relatives who are off trying to make it in the big city, or the handful who are off in foreign countries trying to make it in the big world. Families, sending off single gifts to wayward children.

We're the opposite, in our UPS store line. Large boxes filled with multiple presents for the whole gang "back home," address forms we can fill out without referring to our PDAs because it's where we, too, used to live. Boxes we hope will arrive before we do, or else we'll feel guilty we couldn't just carry them to the airport or the train station with us. Or boxes we hope will be festive enough to make up for the fact that we're not going "home," not this year, no, sorry.

To ease the congestion at the register, they come and take our presents and return them in sealed boxes as we wait for the weigh-in and processing. A series of shopping bags handed off to brown-shirted employees, handed back in neatly taped cardboard cubes. "Are you sure this is mine?" one guy asks, shifting his box from hand to hand as if it will reveal its contents. Mine, too, is returned in a flurry of boxes given to other customers behind me. Did all three of my gifts fit so neatly into this small box, or is my niece going to have a birthday surprise to end all birthday surprises when she opens this next week? "Thank you, Aunt Medusa, for the present. Exactly what my dress up trunk was missing: a brand new Brooks Brothers dress shirt and tie! P.S., Mom took away the cologne."


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