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A Special Package, from Vermont to Finland 

click to enlarge ELISA JÄRNEFELT
  • Elisa Järnefelt

"I haven't sent the package yet. I still want to add a few things," I told my 9-year-old niece in Finland during a recent video call. "Let's see if it arrives by Christmas," I continued, smiling.

"Or by my birthday," my niece added dryly, referring to next February.

Although we said these things lightheartedly, both of us knew they were not really jokes. Among so many other effects of COVID-19, delivery of international packages is extremely slow, or even suspended, due to air travel restrictions.

"You're right," I told my niece. "It may not arrive until around your birthday." Then I continued, thinking out loud: "You'll probably like completely different things by the time it arrives."

My niece nodded in agreement.

A third grader who is enjoying the last lazy weeks of her summer holiday is different from a kid in the midst of fourth grade. My niece is at the age when friends, returning from their summer vacation, have grown taller and look different somehow; when a thing that was recently loved may abruptly be deemed childish; when favorite colors still change often. In the life of a 9-year-old, a few months is a long time.

Suddenly, the nature of my little parcel changed. It is no longer a box that will travel from Vermont to Finland in weeks. It is a time capsule: a collection of things that will embark on a long journey through the unpredictable months of fall in the United States and Europe, to be discovered one winter afternoon in Finland.

After the call ended, I knew I had to rethink what to send. This was a parcel bound for the future, after all.

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