The other day as I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm, the winter wind was blowing to beat the band and the yellow glow of light coming from Aunt Sadie’s “Gone With the Wind” hurricane lamp in the window of their white frame house was surely a welcome sight on that dark, cloudy day I made my visit. Things hadn’t changed much around the old farmstead, and this time of the year the days required both of my kinfolks to keep close to the home fires.
As I knocked on the back door, I wasn’t met by Aunt Sadie wiping her hands on her apron as usual, but instead heard a call from inside telling me to come on in. There, standing at the kitchen table, was Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie looking inside a medium size box with USPS markings on it. I could see they had just opened the package as the table was littered with packing peanuts. The elderly couple had strange looks on their faces that told me that something quite unusual had just occurred.
I expressed my greetings and made the customary remarks about the weather, but could tell they were not very interested in getting into casual talk. For some reason neither one could take their eyes off the box and I knew I had to find out what it contained. With one simple question of, “What’s in the box?” I became a part of a very unusual happening.
Aunt Sadie looked at me from over her glasses and said, “It’s Sid’s cousin Sed.”
Of course, that sort of took me by surprise and I asked another silly question, “He’s in the box?”
Uncle Sid now looked at me from over his glasses and said, “Boy, this is a very serious matter.”
I knew from the expression on his face that something big was up and this was going to be worth the visit. I pulled out a kitchen chair and prepared for the explanation.
Aunt Sadie was now giving a somewhat sideways grin and began to tell me what was going on. “Your Uncle Sid had a cousin that was a little bit different than most folks,” as she began her story. “When electricity first came to these parts he would go out and stand under the transformers for hours. He said they made him feel good, but we just thought he was strange. He was very smart, but just a little different.”
Uncle Sid now took a seat and joined in the discussion of Sed. “Sed was sort of like Paul Revere’s ride, a little lite in the belfry if you ask me. He enjoyed the farm here but just never fit in, and one day just left to go up north to work,” Uncle Sid said. “He said he would come back to stay on the farm for keeps one day, but you just never knew about Sed. We always heard he did real well working at a major electric company up near the Canadian border.”
“And then this morning we get a call from the post office lady telling us there is a package there for us with postage due,” Aunt Sadie chimed in. “We go down there and pay the postage and bring this package home expecting some shortbread from Sid’s cousin up in Michigan. Thelma always sends some this time of the year you know.”
I didn’t know that, but it added to the story. Uncle Sid was now standing up again and pulling something out of the box to show me.
“When we got home and opened the box, this is what was inside,” said Uncle Sid as he pulled a glass urn from the box. “It seems cousin Sed passed away recently and left orders to be cremated, plus to have himself mailed to us. I knew he said he would come back some day to stay on the farm, but not to stay with us forever and especially with postage due. Only Sed would mail himself back to his relatives in a USPS box.”
As I stood there looking at the two holding the ashes of cousin Sed among the remains of packing peanuts and a postage due slip, I couldn’t hold it back any longer. They too could see my expression and now the three of us broke into laughter. Cousin Sed had returned as he said he would, knowing Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie would see that he was taken care of. I guess that is what family is all about, we accept you no matter how you arrive, even with postage due.
I went back by their house a few days later to see what the final outcome was for their guest and found they had placed the urn on a special shelf by the fuse box in the utility room. They thought Sed would have enjoyed being next to something electrical.
– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org