Read All About It: What’s in the Box?

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As I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm the other day, the yellow glow of light coming from Aunt Sadie’s “Gone With the Wind” hurricane lamp in the window of their white frame house was surely a welcome sight. I knocked on the back door, but I wasn’t met by Aunt Sadie wiping her hands on her apron as usual. Instead, I heard a call from inside telling me to come on in. There, standing at the kitchen table, were Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie looking inside a medium-sized box with USPS markings on it. I could see they had just opened the package because the table was littered with packing peanuts. The elderly couple had strange looks on their faces that told me that something quite unusual had just occurred.

I expressed my greetings and made the customary remarks about the weather but could tell they were not very interested in getting into casual talk. Neither one could take their eyes off the box, so I knew I had to find out what it contained.

I became a part of a very unusual happening by asking one simple question: “What’s in the box?”

Aunt Sadie looked at me from over her glasses and said, “It’s Sid’s cousin Sed.”

Of course, that sort of took me by surprise, and I asked another silly question: “He’s in the box?”

Uncle Sid now looked at me from over his glasses and said, “Boy, this is a very serious matter.”

Aunt Sadie gave me a somewhat sideways grin. “Your Uncle Sid had a cousin that was a little bit different than most folks,” she began. “When electricity first came to these parts, he would go out and stand under the transformers for hours. He was very smart, but just a little different.”

Uncle Sid now took a seat and joined in telling the story of Sed. “He enjoyed the farm here but just never fit in, and one day just left to go up north to work,” Uncle Sid said. “He said he would come back to stay on the farm for keeps one day, but you just never knew about Sed. We always heard he did real well working at a major electric company up near the Canadian border.”

Aunt Sadie chimed in. “And then this morning we get a call from the post office lady telling us there is a package there for us with postage due,” she said. “We go down there and pay the postage and bring this package home expecting some shortbread from Sid’s cousin up in Michigan. Thelma always sends some this time of the year, you know.”

“When we got home and opened the box, this is what was inside,” said Uncle Sid as he pulled a glass urn from the box. “It seems cousin Sed passed away recently and left orders to be cremated, plus to have himself mailed to us. I knew he said he would come back some day to stay on the farm, but not to stay with us forever and especially with postage due. Only Sed would mail himself back to his relatives in a USPS box.”

As I stood there looking at the two holding the ashes of cousin Sed among the remains of packing peanuts and a postage due slip, I couldn’t hold it back any longer. They too could see my expression, and the three of us burst into laughter. Cousin Sed had returned as he said he would, knowing Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie would see that he was taken care of. I guess that is what family is all about – we accept you no matter how you arrive, even with postage due.

I went back by their house a few days later to find out what the final outcome was for their guest. Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie had placed the urn on a special shelf by the fuse box in the utility room. They thought Sed would have enjoyed being next to something electrical.

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