The box arrived one afternoon, as big as a TV. It even had a picture of a television on it, and a big, black “Magnavox” printed on the side. But my brother could pick it up. He was only nine years old. He was pretty strong, I thought. He had protected me on the playground more than once. But I was sure he wasn’t that strong. The box sat in the middle of our living room, like a monolith on the carpet. We pounced on the couch and debated about whether we should open it. He voted yes, I voted no. Our parents wouldn’t be home for an hour, and they would want to open it. We could get into trouble.
“Don’t be such a baby, Amy!” my brother said, punching my arm.
“Owww! I’m not a baby. I’m almost as old as you,” I said, rubbing the goose egg that started to swell. He was only eleven months older, so at that moment we were the same age.
“I bet it’s from Aunt Robbi,” Jeff said, jumping up. He pulled at the packing tape trying to see if there were any loose corners to peak in.
“Of course it is, dummy. Look at the address,” I said, finally feeling superior. He punched my arm again.
My sister, who was in middle school, and had the authority (bossiness in our minds) to make the final decision, said that we would not open the mysterious package.
When my father came home, I danced around him, begging him to open the box.
“We will open the box for Ayyam-i-Ha,” he said with Christmas-time glee in his eyes. He picked it up and carried it down the hall towards their bedroom.
“How many more days?” I asked.
“Three,” he said.
And the wait was on. I knew then that somewhere in my parents’ bedroom was their stash. It would be combined with my aunt’s box of goodies on the last day of “Intercalary Days,” for the “big haul.” The four-day festival began, and each night my brother and I visited the “wall-pockets”, wall-hangings my mother had sewn to help create a family tradition, to find small gifts, quotations to memorize or clues for a treasure hunt.
But the last night, the night of the big haul, we got to open the big box. Aunt Robbi had a reputation in our family for sending the coolest gifts. One year, she sent a set of Garfield comic books. Another year, I got a stuffed unicorn. She always sent gifts that said she knew who we were. They weren’t expensive or extravagant. They were personal.
This year the magical mystery box, mostly filled with newspaper, had a Bloom County comic book for my dad, a lovely piece of pottery for my mother, and a unicorn tapestry poster for my sister. My brother and I each got a funny t-shirt. She also she sent a story book. The main characters were Jeff and Amy, a brother and sister who were almost the same age. I thought it was very cool. My brother wasn’t so thrilled. He looked at it, set it down, and went off to do his own thing.
Maybe what was bothering him was the thing that gave me a weird feeling when I first saw it, but the story was good, so I just tried to ignore it. Both the brother and sister were white. Either the company which personalized the book hadn’t gotten my aunt’s instructions, or they couldn’t possibly conceive of a brother with chocolate-colored skin and black curly hair. Jeff was my older brother. He protected me on the playground. He picked on me for being a baby. Who cares what some old, stupid, probably white, man did to a story book?