Short Story: Package

A companion story to “Snowman”.

Corrine tucked her light hair behind her ears and hummed a Christmas song as she moved about the tiny kitchen. Breaking into song, she voiced the words, “Smooth the batter with your spat-la, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la—Wow. Bad idea to skip the hot mitts this time.”

Sticking her tingling finger under the icy cold tap she had left running, she carefully shut the oven with her foot and used her free hand to set the timer. “Sean and Dad will love these goodies, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Christ-mas is for poisoning relatives, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaaa.” She stopped singing and caught her breath dramatically.

“Well, that was interesting…” a voice remarked from around the corner, and the speaker immediately earned an icy, cross-eyed glare.

“You were not supposed to hear that, Sean,” she said, spanking her brother with the dish towel she had been absentmindedly drying her blistered finger with.

“Couldn’t help it,” he said, shrugging unapologetically. Glancing at the eighty-odd dishes she had piled in the sink, he added, “What do we have here?”

She moved to spank him again, but he deftly took the towel from her hands. “No comments about my messiness please. Wanna’ help? Or you could go up in the attic and fix those speakers so we can have some real music.”

He eyed her thoughtfully. “Or participate in the world’s most epic battle of the DISH TOWELS!”

She squealed as he began to attack her with the dampish weapon and frantically opened drawers to find her own. “Ah, ha! A bulky hem,” she said, stretching her prize choice out for him to see. “Perfect for whacking the daylights out of meddlesome brothers.”

He had fallen back to regroup—basically take off his glasses so she wouldn’t break them again. “En guard!” he replied, and the battle was on.

Just then the front door opened and a crowd of people fell in. Corinne froze and looked up at her brother with wide-eyes. He stared back and twisted his dish towel nervously.

“I really hope they are related to us. No one else would understand this,” Sean said tragically.

Corinne tried to smother her giggles and ended up snorting into her hand and turning very Christmas-y colors. Sean’s eyes began to water with internal laughter; and, fortunately for them, it was only relatives who found them moments later.

Mom carefully settled a magnificent gingerbread house in the middle of the dinner table, and the younger children gathered to gaze at it and discuss the different candies one more time.

Sean and Corinne were still recovering from their hilarious battle when their middle sister Kristyn came into the kitchen. Placing one hand on her hip and arching an eyebrow, she observed playfully, “So I see the boring people who stayed home from the gingerbread house party weren’t so bored after all.”

Corinne would have spanked her with a dish towel if she had had one; but her older brother replaced his glasses and said quite peaceably, “You see correctly.”

“And besides, boring sister here had her ‘crrrrazy project’ to work on,” Corinne reminded her.

Kristyn grinned. “Did you figure out who your gift this year is for yet?”

“Nopers.”

Kristyn shook her head with a mock sigh. Her older sister was saved from further comments by the sound of the kitchen timer and an erupting argument between the littles about whether or not licorice was actually alcohol. Corinne hurried over to the oven, slid her hands into mitts twice their size, and removed the brownies.

“Oh, Mom,” she called over siblings short and tall. “That reminds me. I need to go to the post office to send my package.”

“They’ve already closed up tonight, but I’m sure Dad could take you in the morning. He has some errands downtown anyway,” Mom assured her. “Like the gingerbread house?”

All eyes turned to look at her and asked the same question. She smiled and nodded. “And I’m looking forward to eating one of those chocolate windows.”

Conversation returned and somewhere underneath it a little voice could be heard counting the peppermints and dividing the number to see just how many he could possibly eat when the time came. It was terrible sitting there with it just in reach and knowing he had to wait until Christmas. Two days was too long.

He was still staring at it during dinner when Dad said, “Do you want to come with us tomorrow, Arron?”

Everyone was looking at him. “W-what?”

“Dad is taking me to the post office tomorrow morning, and you’re welcome to come with us if you want,” Corinne explained with a little smile.

“Oh, sure.” He gave a toothless grin.

The evening passed quickly—too quickly at least for everyone who wasn’t dying to eat the gingerbread house and was actually enjoying the anticipation of Christmas. Corrine had another problem on her mind that made her wish tomorrow would wait longer in coming. Who was she going to send her gift to?

Every year since she had come to Christ, He had laid it on her heart to make a special little gift and give it to whoever He told her to. Every year He had told her who in one way or another. But she still didn’t know yet, and she would be going to the post office the next morning.

Yawning, she turned out the light in the girl’s bedroom. As she fell asleep, she prayed for wisdom then decided to let tomorrow worry about itself.

Arron was up with the first light and already more awake than she was as they climbed into the family car. “I feel like I should say ‘good morning, Corinne’ and ‘good afternoon, Arron’,” Dad joked as they pulled out of the driveway.

Corinne smiled and settled her package more securely on her lap. The blank space for the address looked odd and irked her somehow. Couldn’t she just choose someone on her own? But she knew that wasn’t how it worked. She had committed to let God decide, and she would just have to wait for His answer.

Arron was jabbering in the back seat about the gingerbread house, and she called her thoughts back to the special time at hand. A few miles down the road and three versions of Feliz Navidad later, they had turned off the radio and pulled into the parking lot of the Chesslie Post Office. A few white mail trucks passed them and more were pulling out of the driveway.

“Ready?” Dad asked, turning to her with a smile.

“Nopers, but I’ll do it anyway,” she replied, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the side door.

“Good luck!”

“Bye!” Arron said before turning back to drawing faces in the frost on his window.

Holding the package tightly in one arm, she slammed her door shut and hurried up to the shining glass doors. No address on her package yet. She was crazy to be doing this.

“Last minute gift, eh?” a voice said, and she looked up to see the young man who had been standing there dusting snow off his coat.

He was holding the door for her; and, as she moved through it, she said with a bright smile, “That’s right. I do hope they get it in time for Christmas day.”

As he followed her through the door, she noticed he was looking at the package. “No address, I know. I really don’t know who it’s for yet.” She grinned sheepishly.

He lifted one eyebrow but didn’t ask any more questions. She found herself strangely glad. This was getting awkward. How was she supposed to take her package up to the counter and tell the clerk that she wanted to send a package but she didn’t know where?

Fortunately there was a bit of a line; so she sat down in a chair, settled her purse and her package in her lap, and began to pray. “Hi God. It’s me, Corinne, again. Who do you want me to send this Christmas gift to?”

She waited, but there was no audible answer. She hadn’t expected one exactly, but it would have been nice. “Better get my Sharpie out of my purse, so I’m ready when He tells me,” she thought.

Her purse was a mess. Kristyn called it “the bottomless pit” once, and Adelinne had countered by affectionately calling it a “bag of tricks”. Either was pretty bad, in Corinne’s humble opinion. She found the Sharpie despite the gum wrappers, old receipts, and compact mirror that threatened to stop her. Mercifully, the only thing that fell out of her bottomless bag of tricks was a lavender-colored business card.

She flipped it over. Why had it been in her purse again? Adelinne had given it to her because it was her favorite color. She had probably gotten it from Arron who collected business cards since stamps were too expensive. An address! It had an address on it!

“Oh, thank you! I have it now!” she said aloud.

The clerk was looking at her strangely.

“Sorry,” she said with a little smile.

“Can I help you next?”

The line was gone. “Oh, yeah, just a minute. Let me write out this address a second.”

A few minutes later, she emerged triumphantly from the post office, still holding the business card in one hand.

“Did you find out who to send it to?” Dad asked as she got in the car.

“Melanie Tweeny, piano teacher, is getting a wool scarf for Christmas,” she said happily, handing him the business card.

“Then hooray for Corinne, and hooray for God!” Arron interjected.

Corinne was sitting in a folding chair in the middle of living room with a pile of Christmas lights at her feet. She wanted to sing, but she wasn’t sure what since it was too late to sing Christmas carols and too early to sing the one good New Year’s song.

“What would you sing in this no man’s land between Christmas and next year?” she asked Kristyn, who was carefully packing away the ornaments they had taken from the tree that morning.

“How about ‘Let It Snow’?” her sister offered.

Wagging her head with a huge red bow fixed to the top of it, Adelinne added, “Yes, do. It seems so lonely without music.”

Coming in moments later, the boys were greeted by three laughing sisters who immediately began singing another verse of their odd song. “You both look rather frightful, but we’re sure the walk was delightful. Now since you’ve no place to go, help us…”

“Nothing rhymes,” Adelinne said, exchanging glances with Kristyn.

“Spreading the disease, Corinne?” Sean said, looking at her over his glasses with amused disapproval.

She gave him what she thought looked like a very innocent face and Arron laughed. “Not exactly the desired effect,” she said wryly.

“Well, anyway, you have mail. Something from a Melissa—no, wait it was Melanie—yeah, Melanie Tweeny. Whoever that is,” Sean said, running his fingers through his hair.

“Melanie Tweeny! Isn’t that—“ Kristyn almost swallowed the tiny piece of candy cane she was sucking on.

“That’s the woman I sent my package to this year,” Corinne said with surprise. “They never write back.”

“This one did,” Arron said, plopping the envelope down on her lap.

They all drew back respectfully and waited for her to read it.

“What did she say?” Adelinne asked, seconds later.

“I’ll read it aloud. ‘Dear Corinne, I loved receiving your gift. Since I’m an older lady, I get cold a lot more often now, and the warm scarf was just what I needed. I don’t need to ask if you made it yourself, because I’m sure you did. It’s very beautiful. I’m a little short on friends right now, and I’d like to invite you and your family to come over tomorrow if it’s all right with your parents. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Mrs. Melanie Tweeny.’ There you are,” Corinne said.

“Wow,” was all Sean could think of to say.

“Let’s take a break and show this to Mom and Dad.”

The next day, almost New Year’s but not quite, the whole family found themselves packed into the van and on their way to Mrs. Tweeny’s. They were literally packed in, since coats and sweaters made them a lot bigger than usual.

“You know something,” Arron told Corinne, pressing his nose against the frosty window. “It’s sad that Christmas is over, but at least ‘Feliz Navidad’ isn’t on the radio anymore.”

Corinne laughed and ruffled his hair. Although she could laugh, she felt a little nervous in the pit of her stomach. Never before had she been able to meet one of the people she had sent a package to. It was exciting and scary at the same time.

Dad turned the van down another street, and she knew from the signs that they were getting close. The neighborhood was half decorated for Christmas and half not. Since it was a sunny day, they noticed that a few people were out in their yards taking down their decorations.

When they reached Mrs. Tweeny’s house, there was a man on the roof who waved to them with one hand and held a coiled string of Christmas lights with the other. They waved back as they piled out of the van. Taking the baby out of her seat, Corinne handed her to Mother and followed Arron out of the van then shut the door behind her.

Walking up the cracked sidewalk, she joined her family at the door and waited as Adelinne rang the doorbell. No answer.

“Try again,” Mom said.

She tried again and nothing happened. They even tried knocking since they knew that sometimes old doorbells didn’t work. Just when they were deciding to leave, the man came down off the roof and tucked his roll of Christmas lights into a dilapidated cardboard box.

“Hey, can I help you all?” he asked, wiping his hands off on his pants and shaking hands with Dad. “I’m Mrs. Tweeny’s nephew.”

“Nice to meet you. Mrs. Tweeny invited us over for a visit. We’ve been ringing the doorbell, but nothing has happened. Is it broken?” Dad asked.

The man laughed. “She’s probably playing piano in the back room. Want me to go in and tell her you’re here?”

The family all nodded at once and told him “thank you” then waited while he went inside. A moment later, a tall older lady with curled gray hair and a moss green dress opened the door.

“Hello, everyone! Do come in! I’m so happy to see you!” She opened the door and let them come in, talking all the while. Her nephew was standing next to her, looking rather amused. “I’m so sorry I didn’t answer the door, but I have to get all the Christmas songs in I can before the season is officially over. Sometimes I can’t hear anything over the grand, especially when I play Handel.”

Mrs. Tweeny was one of those remarkable people who was able to talk, urge you over to the living room, make you feel quite at home, and seem to know you completely by the time she was done with the process. The whole family found themselves sitting around the living room, some on the rug and others squeezed together on the tiny sofa, listening to her hilarious stories of being a piano teacher.

“There was one little girl who was about…your age I think,” she said, looking at Adelinne with a bright smile. “She used to tell me that she couldn’t play the piano unless she took her shoes off. I only smiled at that, but when she took them off at a recital I nearly died of laughter.”

Everyone laughed, especially when Sean added, “Just better hope she’s not a famous pianist someday. Who knows what she’ll do.”

Mrs. Tweeny laughed the hardest; and, when she had finished, she asked, “Which one is Corinne?”

Corinne raised her hand and gave a shy wave. “I am.”

“Thank you so much for the Christmas gift dear! It blessed me so much,” she said, laying a hand on the girl’s arm. “Now, tell me, what made you decide to send it to me?”

“Well, it sounds funny when you say it out loud, but God did. Every year since I really came to Him, I’ve been making an extra gift each Christmas and sending it to whomever He wants me to. It’s been everything from a decorated mug to a store bought book,” she explained, hoping the older lady would understand.

“Why that’s wonderful! A nice way of showing faith in Him and love to other people,” Mrs. Tweeny said. “I feel even more special now that I know.”

Corinne smiled. “Thank you for your encouragement.”

“So how did you decide to become a piano teacher?” Kristyn asked, hugging her knees to herself.

“Well, I’ve always loved music and—“ Her eyes fell upon Arron. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I totally forgot. I made some goodies you all can have if it’s all right with your parents.” She started to rise from her chair.

“Corinne and Arron, would you get them for her please?” Mom asked, then added when the older lady started to protest, “Where are they?”

“We’d love to help you this way. Honest,” Arron said, happy to rise and stretch his legs.

Mrs. Tweeny sat down again and smiled. “You dear people. Blake, will you show them to the ice box, please?”

Her nephew stood up and led them into the kitchen, then opened the refrigerator door for them. Corinne took out a tray of tiny cheesecakes and handed them to Arron before taking the other tray herself.

Blake shut the refrigerator door again, and she said, “Thank you. Always opening doors, aren’t you?”

“I suppose so,” he replied, looking at her strangely. “Oh, that’s right! I know you from the post office. You’re the one who didn’t know where your package was going.”

“Yes, that’s right,” she said, smiling. Then she balanced the tray on one hand and offered the other, “I’m Corinne.”

“I’m Blake,” he said, shaking it. “Nice to meet you. Who could ever have imagined that that package would show up here?”

“I’d call it God’s sense of humor, I suppose,” Corinne said with a little laugh.

“Indeed,” Blake replied. “Sure you don’t need help with that tray, Arron?”

“No thanks, I can eat it all by myself,” Arron said, slyly.

Corinne laughed happily as she came into the living room and set her tray down on the table next to Mrs. Tweeny.

“Thank you, dear,” the older lady said. “And I’ll still say ‘Merry Christmas’ just because I like to.”

“Merry Christmas to you as well,” Corinne replied.

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