Tuesday, April 13, 2010

131 days to Bar Mitzvah: magic packages

Every week, it seems, several packages arrive. Sometimes they come when I'm home, and I have to make some little joke, because that's what the UPS and Fed Ex guys expect. Something from the time-honored "women and their shopping" genre usually does well, transporting us from San Francisco to the Catskills, circa 1954.

Sometimes we come home and find them waiting for us. Other times, the UPS guy sneaks them onto the porch. Today he did that. Shack went nuts, but since I've been programmed to ignore him when he goes nuts, I didn't realize we'd received packages until I saw the Fed Ex guy walking down our front stairs.

I have no interest in opening these packages, unlike the Jawa, who will rip one open the minute it arrives, positive that inside is something exciting even when past experiences should have taught him that there is NEVER something exciting in the package, unless you are part of the Bar Mitzvah design team.

What I kind of dig about the situation is that we never get one medium-sized box. It's also three or four, and always in random sizes, shapes and weights. Take today, for example: once I saw that the Fed Ex guy was back in his truck, thus removing the pressure to say something semi-witty yet grounded in traditional male-female roles, I went out to see what we'd gotten.

A trip to our front porch is a study in an aesthetic power struggle I've been losing for almost 18 years. What was once dingy and dark, hidden behind cast-iron gates, is Sandra Bullock's attempt at creating a welcoming space, an extension of interior square footage, a friendly landing inviting weary travelers to take a load off and rest for awhile.

Where I would have simply ignored the porch, with its peeling paint and confining walls, she was ventured to improve it, adding a small bench, a potted plant, and recently a summery wreath (to replace the autumn wreath she put there last October). For all I know, the Fed Ex guy has to rip himself away from our porch every time he drops something off. Personally, I've never felt compelled to pass the time there, no matter how attractive the new wreath. I drew the line -- for what it's worth, a toothless demand on my part -- at adding artwork.

But I wasn't thinking of any of this today as I sneaked out through the front door. Instead, I was pondering the four boxes sitting on the bench.

There was one big one and three small ones. I thought about leaving them there, but remembered the power of small, simple gestures. Sandra Bullock would not have been surprised to come home and find packages still sitting on the front porch, but she would be pleased to find I had brought them in. It's sort of the UPS equivalent of learning to leave the toilet seat down: small investment, big payoff.

"I'll take the big one first," I thought. "It's probably the heaviest." I lifted the big box, which weighed slightly more than an empty cardboard box. All of the boxes have since been moved downstairs. I have no idea what was in the big box.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that it had been put there as a red herring, to distract me from how back-snappingly heavy the three small boxes were. I had approached them with a cavalier attitude, initially thinking I would sweep all three up, depositing them en masse in the living room. How I love finding ways to save trips. You learn that when you live on top of a 32-step staircase.

It wasn't going to happen this time. Each box weighed 21 pounds, according to the fine print on their labels. What could be in them? They felt like boxes of rocks.

The invitations! That's what they were. We'd been struggling over the guest list for the past week. It made perfect sense for the invitations to arrive. Four months early, but what else could they be?

"It's the candy we ordered," said the Jawa, when he got home.

"Didn't you order that stuff yesterday?" I said.

"We sent them express."

"Why? The Bar Mitzvah's four months away."

"The chocolate will melt if it spends too long in transit."

Okay. If these dense boxes were full of chocolate, I could understand wanting to open them, even if it meant torturing oneself with the knowledge that his home was full of chocolate he was not allowed to eat.

The Jawa ripped open the first box. Inside were ... rocks. It actually was a box of rocks. "Mommy's rocks," said the Jawa, crestfallen.

Three boxes of smooth, black rocks. The big box was full of super-light bamboo.

Now it's real. The basic building blocks of the centerpieces are in the house. The black rocks will go in the vases that arrived a few weeks ago, the bamboo rising out of them like a giraffe-esque garnish.

Sandra Bullock spent much of last weekend carefully cutting silver Godzilla cartoons into envelope shapes. They will be the liners for the invitations (which did not arrive today). The Jawa, for his part, bounded into the living room last night and performed his first aliyah -- two solid minutes of vowelless Hebrew, chanted old-style. And I called Pet Camp to set up Shack's August 20-22 reservation.

Everything is coming into place, and we're just wrapping up Act I, which, in big-budget movie lingo, means were only about 30 minutes into the story. We've established a dizzying pace, this early in the game. And by "we" I mean Sandra Bullock and the Jawa. Shack and I are just getting pulled along in their twin impressive wakes.

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