Two of my best friends (April and Steph) live in the UK. We don’t see or call each other very often, for fairly obvious reasons, but we’ve developed a love of sending packages. We write short emails or Facebook posts to each other, but more often than not, they’re quick “Hey – did you get my letter yet?” We scour stationery stores and thrift stores for fun things to add to our next box (the card and gift room has helped on a number of occasions – my friends love the Slap Happy cards I send). I’ve taken it to a whole new nerd level by purchasing a wax stamp to hold each of my letters closed and writing with fancy pens. But most importantly, we send books.
Right after graduating college, I experienced the all too common “Well, now what?” that most people that age do. I started doing yoga as a way to get out of the house and maybe get some exercise. My yoga teacher recommended a book she had read called Real Happiness, which helped ease some of my frustrations and fears. I sent April a copy right after I finished reading it and she experienced the same sort of relief. When Sharon Salzberg came to the store earlier this year, I had her sign a copy of her new book for April and grabbed a copy of Real Happiness for Steph. April sent me a beautiful print of a poem by Hafiz when I confessed my lack of direction and Steph followed up with some Neruda.
Steph is an artist. She puts postcards of her latest art shows in her packages and her letters are almost always on sketch paper with doodles in corners, sometimes obscuring the words entirely. I keep meaning to frame them. She sends books by authors I barely know whose names I can’t pronounce – Milosz, Szymborska, Akhmatova. I send her Man Ray necklaces, pamphlets from local art shows, and The Art Forger.
We send childhood favourites. I was absolutely aghast that April had never read A Wrinkle in Time, so I sent her my copy. She in return couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of the Just William series and so sent me one of hers. April is studying music in grad school and plays the harp, so I sent her a copy of Maggie Stiefwater’s Lament, about a young harpist (and some homicidal faeries). I just found out that Steph never read any E.B. White, so she’ll be getting Charlotte’s Web in her next package.
There’s just something about getting a well-loved copy of a book from a friend. Knowing that it’s changed the life of someone you love and who loves you makes the reading experience different. There’s also something special about knowing that you are the reason that someone is delving into a world for the first time. We inspire each other to be better women, better artists, better readers. I can’t wait to see what I get in my next box.