I had a friend in college (we’re still friends but, you know) whose mother was once a kindergarten teacher. She had retired some time ago, but never lost the desire and skill for arts and crafts. This meant around every major holiday, she would send not only her daughter, but her daughter’s friends, crafts, treats, decorations and the like, to go along with said holiday. It was wonderful. I learned how to make “Witch’s Hats” (Oreos, orange icing, Hershey’s Kisses), I still got chocolate for Valentine’s day (not that I’d ever received it before), and on Halloween, well, more chocolate. We all loved her for it. I got packages quite often from my mother, but they took a different direction.
My first year of college I began to receive the letters my sister already knew about, since she had gone through college years before. Letters from Laurie. Letters from Laurie we’re long, written on multiple types of paper, perhaps even at different times of the day. Who knows. I would go to the miniature post office on campus a couple times a week and sure enough, there was almost always something from Laurie. Sometimes they didn’t make sense, it was as if she didn’t stop to think at all as to what she was trying to say. Sometimes they were beautiful and tearjerking. Like the one Snoopy card I received. Well I was always receiving Snoopy cards, but this one was different. In this card, my mother went on and on about how much her father would have been proud of me, and how she saw pieces of him in me. He passed when I was in 4th grade. I remember him, but I don’t remember him. It was a lovely card to receive. Other days I might get a card that simply said, “We love you!” and that’s it. Nothing else, just a reminder.
When I moved into my first apartment, I still got the letters, but packages became more of the norm. They weren’t treats or crafts. They were items my mother found and thought, “Oh I should send that to Hilary.” I could never predict what might be inside. No one could. My roommates were growing used to packages from Laurie. It was guaranteed to be a laugh. On Halloween it was an old table cloth and a framed photo of me from 3rd grade. The frame was black with a ghost saying “Boo!” and the picture, well it was a school photo, so you know enough already. What was I to do with this? Put it up in my house? I called Laurie. “Why did you send this?” She laughed. “I don’t know, I don’t know what I do, I just do it.”
Occasionally a new bra would come in the mail. Sometimes it was the correct size, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes cards came filled with twenty dollar bills. Sometimes I would open the card and an old picture would fall out. I began to collect them all, like puzzle pieces. But I don’t know how big this puzzle was.
My junior year I moved to Florence, Italy to “Study Abroad,” as they say. It was an impromptu decision. As impromptu as the Italians would allow. My friend, whose mother was so great with crafts and snacks, was moving to Italy. One night we were sitting at her kitchen table, sharing a bottle of white wine when I said, “What if I came with you?” And so I did. And you know what, so did Laurie’s packages.
The trek to the post office in Florence was further than I was used to. I’m an incredibly lazy person, but the day I arrived in my Italian apartment something hit me. It sunk low into my stomach, I was very far from my mother. She knew it too, which is why, despite the lofty international prices, Laurie sent me packages weekly. Instead of one picture falling out of the card there were fifty. Old pictures and new pictures, pictures of my sister’s wedding, pictures of me in Disneyland for my 10th birthday, pictures of my nephew, pictures of my dog. I had stacks and stacks of pictures in my dresser drawer, and many covering the wall next to my bed. I loved it, even if it made me miss them more. Sometimes I would get to the post office and there would be multiple packages and letters all at once. I suppose they had been held up by the Italians, but that only made it more exciting. I had to restrain myself from opening them immediately (it’s more fun to open letters at home, just in case you start crying). I finally started to send her letters. Postcards from my travels. Stories that made no sense, only fleeting thoughts. Someone once said to me, when I was 13, “You dance like your mother.” You have to be kidding me. What a terrible thing to say. That’s what I thought when I was 13. But now, I know I dance like my mother. There’s no denying it.
Thanksgiving came around. I only had a few weeks left in Florence, but I wished so desperately it was over. My god it was Thanksgiving and my family was celebrating without me! I couldn’t bare it. Laurie sent me another Snoopy card. This one sang. And over each Peanuts character she labeled a different family member. The whole gang was there. Mom, Dad, Danny, Courtney, Emily, Johnny, Leah, Ginny, Dennis, and even Dixie. I could not wait to see my mother. That ridiculous woman who knew exactly what I wanted. When I walked off the Swiss Air plane and through the San Francisco airport and finally saw my mother standing at baggage claim, there were no words. I just cried. I don’t think I could have made it through without her letters.
I was back in California, in my normal life, and as you might suspect, nothing changed with Laurie. Except perhaps, the packages were getting more ridiculous. The summer before I made a short film and I hated it. I hated it more than anything in the world. People had given me money to make this movie and it was a complete failure. I’ve never shown it to anyone and I never will. That Spring Laurie sent me the entire Sonoma Index Tribune. The featured article, a boy from my class who also made films. He was being honored at our local film festival. Very funny Laurie. I told everyone. “Can you believe my mom sent this to me?” They could, and i could, but now I loved to tell people about the packages from my mother. I finally realized what a gem she was. No one’s mother was like this. My roommates would say, “I love your Mother.” As they should. She gave us something to look forward to.
Senior year I moved into a much bigger house, but we packed it full of people. Six of us lived there. Two boys who could not understand how I could have “so many things.” It wasn’t my fault. My mother was always sending me things. “Do you have any of those electric candles? I’ll send them to you.” “You left your hat here, I’ll send it to you.” “There’s a great article about that show you like in the Chronicle, I’ll send it to you.” I kept everything. I didn’t want to forget.
One of my roommates was very jealous. “You get so much stuff in the mail.” I smiled. “I know.”
Not only was I getting odd snippets of my life sent to me, I was getting stories to write about. I had decided to be a writer and Laurie was the best subject.
More bras, a t-shirt, a bag of Reese’s, and then an article about Charles Schulz. And then the Sonoma Magazine, and then the film reviews from the Chronicle, and then my mother’s bathing suit-“LA Suit!”- (she was more excited for me to move to LA than I was), and then a Christmas candle, and letters, and letters, and letters, and letters, now signed “Love, Mimi.” She had fully adjusted into being a grandmother, since it was her full time job.
And then a silly thing happened, my dog started sending me letters. She had already been giving out the most Christmas presents to the family, but now apparently, she had acquired great penmanship. One of life’s many mysteries.
And an even sillier thing. Laurie got an iPhone. Laurie learned how to text. That is a whole other story, that I cannot wait to tell you.
I graduated college and Laurie gave me a set of miniature postcards. They are absolutely adorable, but I haven’t confirmed yet whether or not the USPS will accept them.
I made the move to Los Angeles, and as you can guess, so did Laurie’s packages. My first week was unforgettable. A package arrived. I pulled out many newspaper clippings, a health insurance card and Graduation cards from friends and family. I looked over the clippings. I couldn’t believe it. She thought she was so funny…Laurie had found all of my ex-boyfriend’s newspaper clippings (I apparently had saved some time ago) and she sent each and every one to me. His football stats, his baseball Player-of-the-Week interview, his graduation announcement. Everything. It was hilarious, but it was evil. I called her, “Why did you send that to me?” “Send what?” I thought was she being coy, since she was giggling. “You sent me all of Stephen’s newspaper clippings.” “I DID?”
I told you, she doesn’t think about it. She didn’t know who was in those newspaper clippings she just saw them and thought, “I should send that to Hilary.”
When I still lived at home, Laurie said to me, “Its always nice to get something in the mail.” Now, at 22, living alone in Los Angeles, I couldn’t agree more. When it’s 10 o’clock at night and I’m getting home from a long day of work and I open my tiny mail box to find a small package from Laurie somehow squished in there, it is the greatest gift I could possibly receive. I don’t care what’s in it. Whatever it is, it’ll make me laugh, and then I’ll talk to my friends about it, and it’ll make them laugh and they’ll say, “Your mother is so funny” and I’ll say, “I know.”
The absolute latest. A box arrived. The mailman said, “It’s Christmas time Hilary!” It’s not Christmas time. He doesn’t know my mother. I opened the box. An old (Christmas) blanket covered in short black dog hair and an old (Christmas) dress from high school. Size 2. Needless to say, I do not fit in a size 2 dress anymore. I called her. “Why did you send this to me?” “I don’t know. Sell it.”
I’ve been sleeping with the blanket every night since.