There is nothing like surprise gifts or 'care packages' from friends to cheer your day, especially if you're an expat. But sending them is even better, Expatica's blogger writes.
Recently the mail bought a fat envelope from Vicky. The outside was marked "Photos — do not bend" and I fully expected to tear it open and find pictures of my godson, Derek, who is a high school senior. Instead, the envelope included an assortment of photos from my family, going all the way back to when I was dating my husband 26 years ago.
In the enclosed note, Vicky wrote that knowing how much I missed my own family photos (which are in storage in America), she thought she'd ease my homesickness with snapshots and portraits I'd sent her over the years.
What a fabulous surprise. My kids will be turning nine and eleven in September and the photos I'd missed the most were from their baby and toddler years. I was thrilled to once again see a snapshot of my son at a year old, dressed as pumpkin and sitting in a pile of leaves and the one of my daughter wearing a white bonnet and frilly dress on her first Easter. There were the Christmas photos sent out each year, one revealing the super short haircut my 5-year-old boy had given his 3-year-old sister ("I want her to look like me", he'd said, standing over a pile of her long blonde hair). Then there were photos of me pre-kids, with my 80s hair style and one taken of me in a black leather miniskirt back in THE DAY. (Proof that I once had a flat stomach!)
The unexpected gift of the photos got me thinking about the wonder and joy of care packages. The only thing better than receiving one is sending one out. There's a true element of surprise with a care package and the chance for the giver to be creative. Unlike birthday or Christmas gifts where there's some expectation as to what is appropriate, care packages are all about being thoughtful and just sending something fun.
Life as an expat has lonely moments and there are times when homesickness rolls in like a fog turning the world gray. Those times have been eased by the kindness of friends back in America. More than once, Vicky has sent surprises my way, including my first scrapbook. Sherry, a childhood friend who introduced me to the fun of papercrafts, recently surprised me with a beautifully decorated journal that she made. When I was completely stressed out preparing to come to Belgium, Lynn sent me chocolate chip cookies she'd baked with her kids and when she visited in July, among the items she brought for us was a 10-pound bag of our favorite pancake mix, a regional specialty from Virginia. Last winter, my niece surprised me with an oversized teacup and saucer and my former neighbors sent me tea and my kids candy for Halloween.
On my first birthday here in Belgium, my friends gathered for a party in my honor, videotaped it and included a copy in the enormous box of gifts they assembled for me. It may have been my best birthday ever. One of my blog readers, someone I've never met, had bagels FedExed to me from New York after reading about how much I missed them. Sitting here remembering all these not-so-random acts of kindness puts a smile on my face and reminds me how blessed I am to have such warm-hearted, generous people in my life.
I've sent packages to friends going through rough spots in their marriage, those that are overwhelmed at work and finding it hard to carve out any time to recharge and recover, college students far from home, new moms who are often neglected when all attention shifts to the baby and friends that just hit a low spot or need a boost. Everything from yoga tapes and candles to books, CDs, chocolates, lotions, cosmetics and gourmet foods have found their way into the packages I've mailed.
Tucking items into a box, taping it shut and sending it on its way is a singularly satisfying act. I can just imagine the recipient's face when they discover a package in the mail and have no idea what could be inside that box or why it's shown up at their door. It's better than Christmas — friendship is a gift we can celebrate and give all year round.
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