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  • Last modified 322 days ago (Dec. 27, 2017)

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My present dilemma

Even though it’s the season of giving, I was surprised Friday when Karlene, our office manager, called out to me from her desk.

“David, there’s a package for you up here at the front,” she said.

A package for me?

Across the years I was in early childhood education, unexpected packages typically contained something fun or deliciously bad for my health, tokens of thanks and affection from grateful kids, families, and college students I always was delighted to see.

But what in the world might someone be sending to the news editor of a small-town weekly? I approached Karlene’s desk with a fair measure of trepidation.

A box wrapped in brown paper addressed to “David Colburn, Peabody Gazette,” awaited me.

Never mind that Bulletin was left off; that reference ruled out a great number of subjects I might have offended with one of my editorials, but by no means all.

A return address in Leon was momentarily encouraging — no terrorist would be so dumb as to include that — but immediately I realized it could be a simple ruse meant to lull me into complacency.

I gingerly picked up the package, carried it back to my office, and set it on my desk, as my thoughtful colleagues warned me to watch out for any white powdery substance.

Hesitant just long enough to tell them to stand back for their own safety, I tried cautiously to slip the wrapping off, but when it resisted, ripping followed.

It appeared someone knew of my fondness for coffee and soups. The box had a picture of a cup, lid, and spoon on it, with the words “soup, oatmeal, coffee, tea, pudding, eggs, soft serve, etc.” printed on two sides, and a “Made in U.S.A.” flag sticker on it.

I shook it. Nope. That rattle didn’t sound like any cup/lid/spoon combination I’d ever heard or seen. The only option left was to open it.

A note lay on top. I removed it and discovered why the package rattled: the box contained five old cassette tapes. Four were Christmas-themed, including Elvis Presley’s classic “Blue Christmas” and three country music ones. The fifth was Patsy Cline’s “Heartaches” album, with “Crazy” as the title track.

Still confused, I opened the note and laughed as I read it.

“Dear Voyager Van —

“Read your editorial and realized you might need some cassettes. I have no idea what type of music the Voyager needs or likes but thought I’d send some anyway.

“I truly believed I had more cassettes to send your way, but I must have thrown more away (20 years ago), or sold them for nothing at some crazy garage sale.

“I truly loved your Voyager editorial and thought it was the season to send some cheer your way. Or maybe just a smile!

“Happy holidays to you and your family, from a secret Santa.

“P.S. Good luck as the Voyager takes you on trips around the county.”

My, oh my. That was as gratifying as a 4-year-old’s drawing or college student’s blueberry muffin bribe for a better grade on a test (didn’t work; she got the C she earned).

If that return address is correct, this Santa might not be so secret after all. Computerized subscription records are a marvelous thing. However, it’s supposed to be secret, so “Shhhhh,” I’m not telling.

When I climbed into the Voyager at the end of the workday, “Blue Christmas” was the first tape I cued up, and that’s when I discovered something new about my battered old beast: The cassette player doesn’t work. It just clicks and whines.

Still, minor momentary disappointment couldn’t dim the glee and warmth of that act of kindness, made more humorous by my initial dread. Getting that box ranks among my favorite Christmas surprises ever.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that I alluded to my approaching birthday in last week’s editorial. Maybe another package will be coming soon, this one containing a cassette player repair manual. Patsy Cline said it best: That would be crazy.

— david colburn

Last modified Dec. 27, 2017

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