Musing on mail

By Sara Johnson

The other day I got scolded for giving my friend Chloe an orange from CafAc Mac. As I handed her the orange, said my goodbyes and started to make my way out of the Campus Center holding a banana, a foreign and not so friendly hand grabbed me by the shoulder. ƒ?oeYoung lady, come with me,ƒ?? said the familiar voice. It was Haroldƒ?”my bud, my palƒ?”or so I thought. As he marched me across the cafeteria, I wondered what he could possibly want. Apparently he wanted to tattle-tale to the Manager of CafAc Mac about my fruit-sharing crime. What?! As Harold shared my bad deed with the manager, all I could think to say was, ƒ?oeWell, sorry, do you want my banana?!ƒ?? ƒ?oeNo,ƒ?? the manager said, ƒ?oeI want you kids to follow the rules!ƒ??Well, this kid doesnƒ?TMt know how to handle all the mixed messages she is receiving. Recently I have found myself being pushed and pulled between childhood and adulthood. A good example of this occurred at the beginning of last semester when I started to get a lot of mail from my parents. Sometimes I would get a bulky envelope from Dad and a big box from Mom on the same day. Strangely, there seemed to be no discussion between them regarding the fact that they both mailed me packages, or about what the packages contained.

Take, for instance, one of the days where I got something from each parent. Momƒ?TMs package contained bits and pieces of my childhoodƒ?”colorful costumes, small sundresses I once wore, purses I paraded around town with, even a small microphone I used in my diva days. Emptying the box of its diverse contents, I didnƒ?TMt know what to do with the treasures/trash my mom believed I should haveƒ?”and I didnƒ?TMt know why she felt I needed them. I thought moms emptied the nest only when their kids had permanent nests of their ownƒ?”this felt a little premature.

I threw everything back into the box, stuffed it into the hall closet, and nervously turned to the envelope from Dad. Ripping it open, I found a small note attached to what looked like a very dense reading assignment. His note said that he was sending some information about investments, an article about a potential job (right in St. Paul!) and a ƒ?oerelevantƒ?? editorial that might help my senior thesis. He signed his note, ƒ?oeLove, Dad.ƒ??

Clutching the stack of papers in my hand and looking towards the hall closet where the package from Mom was now hidden from view, I wondered who to be: the adult Dad was helping me become, or the small girl Mom wanted me to remain as?

It is hard to know who I want to be with everyone offering their opinions. Professors are telling me to get serious about a paper that is supposedly the capstone of my educational experience, friends are deliberating over plans for Grad School over drinks (which Iƒ?TMm now more than old enough to be legally drinking), and my relatives are even telling my mom that I am a wonderful young lady. I must be an adult! But of course I canƒ?TMt ignore those experiences like the fruit incident, where I am apparently still just an unruly kid.

In the midst of this self-crisis, I received another package in the mail signed ƒ?oewith loveƒ?? from both Mom and Dad. For the first time, both of their gifts were in a single box: a fondue pot from Mom and an article about midwifery from Dad.

When I thought about it further, the box I now cradled in my arms and triumphantly carried home was the logical conclusion to my story. I didnƒ?TMt have to choose. No matter who or what I thought everyone else wanted me to be, I didnƒ?TMt have to narrowly define myself. I could be an ƒ?oeadult,ƒ?? but I could also stay young for my whole life.

When it comes down to it, none of us fits into a box, especially not a literal box that finally has acknowledged a bit of the diversity and complexities within, like the one I received from both of my parents. Even if I have a fondue party, during which I will probably babble on about midwifery (a current interest), the person I am is so much more than these two representations. Itƒ?TMs likely that no matter what part of my life I am currently in, I will always be looking forwards as well as backwards. But finally I will do so with joy, reveling in the perspective, knowing itƒ?TMs all legit: itƒ?TMs all the real me.

Contact Sara Johnson ƒ?TM06 at [email protected]