He had finals this week.
He’s on vacation next week.
But the week after that? He comes here.
To meet me.
After 4 1/2 months of emailing, texting, and phone calling.
You need to know that, because it pertains to the rest of this post. But from here on out we’re talking about “the perfect care package.” And nothing more. For reals.
Let’s begin. The Finals Week Survival Kit I mailed to the East coast last week (Yes. To him.):
Before we move forward however, let it be written that it is ultimately Frit who taught me how to put together the perfect care package. She’s seriously the best. Whenever I go out of town, am left behind when she goes out of town, have something great happen to me, have something terrible happen to me, or am just out-of-the-blue lucky, you can bet there’s a gift basket of some sort to go with the occasion. Additionally, my own mother packs a mean gift box. I look forward to her Valentine’s Day care package all year. So basically what I’m saying is that I’ve learned from the best and you can put your trust in me and this here post.
Now. Putting together a perfect care package is really not difficult. It just takes a little time, a little care (hello? that’s the reason it’s called a care package), and a little thought.
Let’s get started …
The basis of a good care package is always the same: food. Find out what their favorite treats and snacks are. I’ve been able to collect “data” for over four months now so I had a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Favorite road trip snack? Pretzels. Favorite candy? Skittles. Favorite cookie? Oatmeal. Check. Check. Check. As for the beef jerky … Frit always throws a package of that in too because she thinks it rounds out the food portion nicely. I concur. Who doesn’t love beef jerky? Especially boys. Now, if you’re unable to sleuth their favorite snacks, make sure you go with a good salty/sweet, fruity/chocolatey, healthy/sugary mix. A great place to start is in the bulk foods aisle at the grocery store where you can find fantastic trail mixes, atypical & seasonal candy, dried fruits and nuts.
Once you’ve got your food covered, then you move on to the extras. The type of extras you choose will vary by person, personality, gender, and the type of care package you’re putting together, but ultimately, you just have to put yourself in their shoes. Think: what would you want if you were in their situation? In the case of this example, we’re talking about a finals week package for a guy who’s in a pretty intense doctoral program, is studying from early morning to way past midnight, is tired and feeling the stress that comes from such a crazy-hard program, and lives alone. So if I were him, I’d want, in addition to yummy snacks, outlets for letting go that require zero brain power when I did actually get to take a break. So. I found a hand-held Tetris game, a stress squeezer, a yo-yo, and a CD.
Other ideas Frit & I had, but didn’t use, were: $5 gift-certificates to places like Subway or Wendy’s so he wouldn’t have to worry about making lunch or dinner, a Nerf over-the-door-basketball hoop, a DVD from the sale bin at Wal-Mart (you can find some real gems in that bin!), a package of No. 2 pencils, my favorite pens, or even a box of index cards.
Next, you’ve got to think about packaging. One option is to wrap every item in the package with tissue or wrapping paper. This is definitely a fun way to go and makes opening the package like Christmas morning. You could also add post-it notes with cute sayings or phrases to different pieces of the package. Color coordination is a must in my opinion as I think it ties everything together nicely and gives it a finished look.
I opted for tying lime green and aqua ribbons around each item and using aqua striped tissue paper for the box filler (not pictured). Cellophane bags tied with ribbon (like the one holding the pretzels in the photo above) are a cute, easy way to package bulk items and Tupperware (like the one holding the cookies in the picture above) is great for sending handmade goodies as zip-top bags leave food items susceptible to being smashed. Oh! And a side-note for sending cookies: use a few paper towels to cushion the cookies against breakage and put a piece of bread inside the Tupperware to keep them soft.
Lastly, if you’re not mailing your package, baskets are the way to go. You can find them cheap at the thrift store and they make the perfect container for giving your goods away. Line it with fabric or tissue paper! And when arranging your items, position large items first, near the back. Then fill in with the smaller ones.
4. A PERSONAL TOUCH
Lastly, make sure your package has a personal touch. Whether it be a card/note, something homemade, or an item that belongs to you, adding a bit of yourself goes a long way to making it special. For my package, I whipped up a batch of my delicious oatmeal cookies and designed/drew the CD face and sleeve for the finals week playlist I put together with him in mind.
I also included a handmade card with a handwritten note.
5. JUST MAIL IT ALREADY!
Despite how proud I was of my care package, in the end, I was nervous to mail it. What would he think? Would he hate my cookies? (That would crush me most of all!) Yes, the yo-yo is a silly idea, but is it stupid? Did I totally fail at putting together a playlist of music he’d like? Is it too much? Is it not enough? But ultimately, Frit reminded me, “What would you think if you got a package like this in the mail? You’d love it! Cuz who doesn’t love getting mail? Especially when you’re far away from family and friends and headed into a really crazy week. You’d just be so grateful someone thought of you.”
And she’s right. You might feel apprehensive about what you put together. You might worry some of the items are dumb. You might be self-conscious about the wrapping. You might worry that it’s not enough. But the bottom line is this: no matter what’s in it, the person receiving it will know you care. And that is all that matters.
And so I mailed it.