For anyone living abroad, Christmas does not just come once a year. Instead, it’s a far more malleable event that occurs any time the doorbell unexpectedly (or expectedly; to be honest, it doesn’t much matter if you know it’s coming or not) rings and a postal worker gives you the holy grail of objects: the care package. Received by a lucky few and craved by all (if you say you don’t, you’re a big, fat liar), care packages have an awesome way of arriving exactly when you need them most.
The entire reason that I’m writing this post is that I received a surprise package from my grandmother last night, filled with pancake syrup, Pop-Tarts, popcorn, and pretzels, all foods that I love but that are virtually nonexistent here. Especially the pretzels…I snacked on them constantly in America and in Germany, but for whatever reason, they don’t exist here, much to my heartbroken dismay. (I was shocked to happen across a tiny bag of white chocolate-covered Hanover pretzels at a convenience store last weekend, and snatched them up like someone who’d found a winning lottery ticket on the ground.) And I know that my mother, aunt, and (other) grandmother will be sending me a nice, big Halloween package filled with cookies ‘n’ cream candy, various snacks, hair care products, and other seemingly trivial objects in the next few weeks.
Of course, I don’t need those things. Not in the slightest. But the fact that somebody in my family cares enough to a.) buy them, b.) play Tetris to pack them up in the most economical way, and c.) pay the exorbitant shipping charges gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. And it makes the world feel that much smaller, knowing that if a monster craving for Keebler fudge striped cookies strikes (and yes, it has happened), it only takes a week before my mum has come to my rescue and I bite into a deliciously processed shortbread cookie.
To be sure, I’m incredibly content (大満足 – I’m really getting the miles out of that new vocab word) with life in Aomori. Be it a physical object or an experience, I can find almost anything that I could possibly want here. My complaints are few and far between and usually originate in my own shortcomings. That being said, getting packages from home still causes mountainous spikes in my mood. Who thought that an innocuous white USPS cardboard box could make a woman so happy?
The first few months in Aomori, unlike my present time frame, were pretty rough; an injury on my second day left me limping around for the next month and a half, vital appliances decided to break down at the most inopportune times, and one of my best friendships ended in a firestorm of painful backstabbing. I wasn’t the happiest of campers. Thankfully, my family was there to save the day, sending half a dozen packages in those first few months that rescued me from those black trenches.
When you’re down in the dumps, it’s amazing how the scent of your regular shampoo or a handful of Reese’s Pieces can make you feel so much better. Familiarity can make all the difference. Plus, care packages combine two awesome things: opening presents and getting mail. It doesn’t matter how clean my apartment is; when I get a care package, stuff ends up everywhere.
While I’m a big supporter of foreign food delivery services, like the Costco-supplied Flying Pig, getting packages from home is far, far better. First, (and this is especially true if homemade goodies make their way into the package) there’s the whole “made with love” aspect. It sounds clichéd, but it’s definitely true. And second, obviously if I order food or any other foreign good online, I’m limited to what is actually available to order. First world problem alert: it doesn’t matter that Starbucks hazelnut coffee syrup is listed on Amazon.com…they still won’t ship it to Japan. Womp womp.
So any time that I know a family member is putting together a package for me, I inevitably throw out a request for something obscure that I can’t find here or order. I’ve asked for such random things like clay avocado masks, Mrs. Dash seasoning, Reese’s Easter eggs, Girl Scout Cookies, volumizing conditioner, Kinder Bueno chocolate bars, toothpaste, German DVDs of Angel (nerd alert), Entertainment Weekly issues, EasyMac…the list goes on and on. I’m not sure that anyone else has ever unsuccessfully suppressed a squeal of delight at opening a package and finding ranch dressing seasoning. What you once took for granted becomes much more rare and therefore, in many cases, much more valued and delicious.
Some veteran expats might argue that care packages are wasteful, unneeded, and only necessary for the “weak” who constantly crave a taste of home. To those people, I suggest that they kindly forward any goodies that they might receive to my front door. I’ll welcome them into my apartment with open arms and give them a loving home.