Why I almost had a meltdown at the post office

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To the nice lady with the new hairdo who witnessed my near meltdown at the post office a couple of weeks ago, I’d like to offer an explanation.

You see, it was the first time I ever had to put Christmas in a box and mail it to a loved one so far across the international dateline that he’s living tomorrow while I’m still living today. Yes, I know people have been sending packages to other hemispheres for years, but it was my first time so there was this learning curve, you know? And trying to pack everything in those military boxes you pointed to in that kiosk was tougher than I thought, especially the miniature LED Christmas tree I got in DC (Dirt Cheap). Then there was the gift from his grandparents and the candy his sister made and that photo book I stayed online until four in the morning trying to figure out. Once I got all that tucked in (plus a strand of tinsel), there were two boxes to tape and multiple forms to fill out. Oh, you probably remember that label, too. I was as surprised as you by that tug on my heart as I was putting a certain far-away address on the right lines.

So when you asked that hazmat question regarding perfume and I asked if that meant cologne, too, and you answered in the affirmative, well, we both knew what that meant. You passed me some scissors and your roll of priority mail tape (since I’d used all of mine), and I went back to the drawing board. That’s when I removed the beautifully-wrapped (I like to think so, at least) triple cologne set I had carefully selected during the Black Friday rampage for Son No. 3 and his roommates, Valdivia and O’Shea.

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(In the military, it’s always last names. I’ve learned that, just like I’ve learned about airmail restrictions. On the gift tag, though, I actually wrote these guys’ first names. I figured even a Marine wants to be known by his first name at Christmas.)

Anyway, I sucked up the meltdown I could feel brewing within me and culled that gift from the box. You watched me do it. I guess those three will just have to keep smelling like whatever you smell like in a barrack and leave the aromatherapy for later.

And the truth is I might have lived my whole life without knowing much about mailing to an APO/FPO or the whole military thing in general if my son had not enlisted. I would still be calling the members of every branch “soldiers” and looking at pictures of recent boot camp graduates in our local paper and wondering, “Why in the world did they do that?” Most likely I would have hardly raised an eyebrow over the whole Colin Kaepernick issue, nor would I have been standing on an overpass waving a flag last week when a sailor’s remains were escorted home.

I’m glad I’ve been enlightened.

And one of the important arcs in my military mom learning curve was mailing (trying to, at least) some very important Christmas packages while a November calendar still hung on our fridge.

So nice lady at the post office, thanks for helping me through my near meltdown. I thought you’d like to know that when our son FaceTimed us yesterday (that would make it his today), their room was lit by an odd green glow that only LED lights can provide. Yep, it was his DC Christmas tree, the one you watched me squeeeeeze into what was left of Box No. 1. That tree is standing proud right below a strand of silver tinsel some cologne-less Marines, 7,000 miles from home, draped between their closet doors.

I think they and all the other far-away loved ones receiving packages that were christened at your counter this season would want me to tell you thanks, and have a very merry Christmas.   

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.