Monday, November 12, 2007

I wrote this back in 2002, and with our own Thanksgiving just past and the American one coming up soon, I was reminded of the experience I went thru back then, and how it warmed my heart.

Canadian Thanksgiving - October 2002

The holiday was looming on my horizon and I still had not made plans for what to do with a three day weekend. Since my car is presently unreliable for long drives and the weather was dicey, a trip through the mountains to see my family was not the best choice. I decided instead to stay home and maybe have some friends over, cook a big meal, do the usual stuff-yourself-‘til-you-drop kind of thing, maybe take in a movie or two.

Then I got an email from a guy named Rob who is on a ship somewhere, out there, in service to his country. I instantly knew what to do for Thanksgiving and with the money I would have spent. With a budget of about $90 in mind, I made a trip to our local Wal-Mart on the Friday night after work.

The Halloween candy display was right by the front entrance, and since I’m not much of a cookie baker, figured a Halloween care package would suffice. I threw several packages into my cart. Right after the seasonal aisle is the books and magazines, and I spent several minutes checking out the magazines. I didn’t want anything too racy, nor too boring. Snowboard magazines? Maybe if this was Canadian servicemen, but probably not for this crowd. I think I settled on a Rolling Stone, some men’s health journal, a car magazine, and a puzzle book.

I made a detour through the cosmetic department for a bottle of body wash, some soap, hand lotion, and a few other personal items. I had read somewhere that the gals on board might appreciate some NICE smelly stuff that would also be practical.

Then over to the food aisle, where I loaded up with boxed cookies, more hard candies, and my personal favorite - a bin of neon colored sour gummy worms. Excellent! I agonized over several chocolate items, but knew that they probably wouldn’t travel well. God only knows when or if this package would ever arrive!

The cashier rang everything through and the bill came to just over $70.

When I got everything home, I found out it was going to take two boxes to fit everything, still with some room to spare. So I went to my to-be-traded bookshelf. I had recently purchased some hard covers and so was disposing of the related paperbacks, most of which were in brand-new condition. I knew I could get a good deal at the used-book-store for them, but I threw about 6 or 8 of those in, just to make the boxes full.

Saturday I spent in wrapping & taping & addressing.

Sunday I went to church and said a prayer for service people everywhere who aren’t home over the holidays.

Monday I loaded the car and made a run for the Washington State border. I live only 15 minutes from a border crossing, and with my fingers crossed and a completely innocent look on my face, told the border guard that I was just going down to Bellingham for some shopping.

I had been invited to several Thanksgiving meals at different homes that day, but had declined all in order to accomplish my Thanksgiving Day mission. I found the post office in Sumas, just across the line into Washington, only to realize that it was Columbus Day and all government agencies were closed.

So in a panic because I didn’t claim the two LARGE parcels in the hatch of my car, and I don’t want to be searched on the way back and have them found and then have to pay duty on them or have my car impounded … rational thought process rapidly deteriorating by this time … I found a friendly neighborhood Fed-Ex man. Now, Rob had mentioned something about Fed-Ex not being able to deliver to the Navy, but I thought it was worth a shot.

The man (and eventually his wife, who came out from the back as I babbled my story) were so helpful to me. They both double-checked their computers, but nope, they couldn’t send anything to the address I had on the boxes. Then in a moment of graciousness which just about had me crying, the man started looking through the phone book for Mailboxes Etc. kind of places that might be open in the area. He phoned 4 different businesses LONG-DISTANCE at his expense before he found someone who was open on the holiday, and then drew me a detailed map on how to find the place.

I left their business clutching the map to my breast and with a full heart.

The map was excellent and after about a 20 minute drive I found it. I carried the larger of the two parcels in. It was really just a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with one man behind the counter reading a magazine. He had taken the phone call from the Fed-Ex guy and had been expecting me. I gave the first parcel to him for weighing while I went out to my car for the second.

We exchanged some pleasantries while I filled out the necessary paperwork, and I explained to him who Rob was and why I was doing this. He mentioned about his years in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska, flying MIG’s over Soviet air space. He seemed to be in the mood for some reminiscing, and I had the whole day ahead of me, so we chatted. He made mention of how appreciated the parcels from home had been, while he’d been in the service, which only reinforced for me why I was doing all this.

Finally the moment of truth - one box was going to cost $36 and the other $39 to mail. In American funds. Right now, one Canadian dollar is worth around $1.58 American. And he doesn’t take Mastercard. He directed me to a bank machine across the street. When I got back to the shop, he was telling the next person in line all about “this Canadian gal who was spending her Thanksgiving sending some parcels to some of our boys”.

Everyone turned to look at me, I waved my handful of twenties, and they all gestured me to the front of the line. I paid my bill, the parcels were taken into the back, and I breathed a prayer that they would eventually reach their intended destination.

I had about $10 left over, so I drove a little further south to a Taco Bell and treated myself to a great Thanksgiving Dinner.

So I went a little over budget, but the warm fuzzy feeling has stayed with me. My parcels arrived in the first wave (about 10 days after I sent them out), and I hear that they were distributed at something called Steel Beach Day, just in time for Halloween.

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