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Maybe next year

It was just a box. Nothing more.

It arrived at least a month before it had to. I’d find it outside my front door, wrapped in brown paper with my address written elegantly on the front, like something from the pre-Amazon time when people did their own shipping.

I took it to the patio, tearing off the paper that came off with equal parts tape. Once the box was revealed, I slit the tape and lifted the flaps, holding my breath as the strong scent of tobacco slapped me in the face.

Inside was the usual. A few wrapped packages, ones my mother took so much care to make the ribbons and bows just perfect. This one had socks and underwear. That one had a long-sleeve shirt. And the other held a pair of khaki pants. Or maybe the other one had socks and underwear, and this one had a shirt, and that one … never mind, it never really mattered.

Packed around the edges were stocking stuffers, the ones I was to put in my stocking and well as her grandson’s. Candy, deodorant, toothpaste, stamps, mouthwash, and of course the Lifesavers Storybook, a part of every Christmas since I could remember.

I fished out the smaller wrapped box at the bottom, as I always promised Mom I would use it right away – Hallmark ornament, a lighthouse, the next in a never-ending series.

I left the box outside for a few days to let it air out. The days of having to hide it from my son were long gone.

“I see the box arrived,” he’d say, seeing it on the patio. “Typical grandmom. Way early, as usual.”

As usual.

That box didn’t come this year. It won’t come next year, or the year after.

I tell myself that’s how life goes. Like kids getting older, like friends moving on, like families getting larger and smaller.

Christmas remains a constant.

But that does not mean my mood has to.

Next year will be better, I say. Next year it will be filled with peace and goodwill and cheer.

Besides, it was just a box.

But it was so much more.

 

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