Brown Paper Package.

It took eight days to come and when it did I was almost more relieved for the sender than excited for the recipient (me). My dad could worry about things like that. I generally trusted in the postal system—if not their speed then in the idea that one day my sent item would turn up. How many days or weeks it might take was anyone’s guess.

I didn’t tear into it immediately. I put down my groceries and set my coffee to brew. I was going to savor this.

I cut the top off and pulled the contents out and laid them on my desk. A couple of credit card statements that somehow kept getting sent to my dad’s house (don’t worry—paid ‘em online), a missions prayer magazine, and a coupon from Starbucks for a free cake pop. Whoopie.

I looked at the book, Out of Our Minds. This was going to be interesting. I heard the author on a TED talk. I had ordered it some months ago from Amazon and it was backordered. I had no idea when it would arrive and hadn’t anticipated that I’d be moving back to Philadelphia in the interim. My dad didn’t really understand why it came to his house. I told him it could wait until next month when I visited.

But really the book constituted the premise for sending off the big padded envelope I was now digging into (you really ought to have it, he’d said), and I think what he really wanted to send was the two photos he had slid into a too-small envelope jimmy-rigged to hold and protect them. Maybe it would have seemed weird to send them and nothing else.

My sister had asked me the other night if I had received the package. She sounded a little worried. Why, I asked—did Dad stick money in it? Oh I don’t know about that she said, but I know he really wanted you to get the pictures. The tulips, right? Yes, she said. I think he must have been out there with his camera at about 6:00 am because when I got there late morning he’d already gone to Costco to get them developed. This was a serious errand.

Now I looked at the two photos—one for each side of the house where the tulips were in full bloom. There were three varieties: red, yellow, and combo red and yellow. I could see in the far corner the round buds of something that was distinctly non-tulip. In limited botanical vocabulary, he’d laboriously tried to explain to me over the phone the characteristics of this stranger in the land. Lots of petals and they all swirl around. Kind of fluffy and real full. I flipped through my mental card catalog of perennial varieties. Daffodil? I suggested. No, probably not. Now seeing the tight round bud in the photo confirmed the intruder as peony. We don’t know how it got there, we’ve never planted them or seen one come up with the other tulips before.

I looked at the photos of the tulips and admired my handiwork. I had planted them and they looked quite rich. When my mother was pregnant with me she planted these beds full of tulips and for at least sixteen years they continued to grace the property each spring. But even super-tulips imported from Holland pass their peak. A few years ago after a tulip hiatus, we decided it was time to renew the crop.

I set the photos prominently on my bedroom dresser, loving the sweet love that went into the taking, developing, and sending of them. Completely worth sending a whole package just to get them to me.


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