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YO MAMA: How simple mail deliveries brought our family joy over the pandemic

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Every parent has a box story. A tale of childish delight and imagination inspired by nothing more than cardboard, the moral of the story being something about the simplest of things bringing the most joy. This is a story about boxes, but it is also about people and human connection during a time of social isolation.

I had my baby in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. When our little one was born, we didn’t know much about how the virus affected infants. Beyond our bubble of close friends and family, we didn’t go out much. That was, for the most part, just fine with us. After all, we had a wonderful new baby to play around on the floor with. Still, it was lonely at times, and we missed being able to introduce our baby to other friends, family and co-workers.

I still remember the winter day that a Fedex truck pulled up our long, snowy driveway. My son’s ears pricked at the rumbling sound approaching the house. He was around nine months old and clambered over to the window. With considerable effort, he pulled himself up to stand on tippy-toes at the windowsill and peered out.

We watched the Fedex man park and get out of the truck. My son’s eyes never left him as he slid the big side door of the van open and dug around inside for a couple of boxes. As he approached the house I knocked on the window. He looked our way, the initial surprise on his face quickly turning to friendliness. He came over to the window and gave my son a big smile and wave.

A beautiful, big grin bloomed on my son’s face. He giggled and excitedly slapped his hands on the windowsill. The Fedex man laughed too. There we were, safely separated by a pane of glass, enjoying meeting a stranger.

We lost sight of him as he carried the package around the porch to the front door.


It was the first time my son had heard the doorbell. He went speed-crawling down the hall towards the sound, his little hands slapping the tile floor. By the time we got there and opened up the door, the man was gone. But there was a box sitting on the welcome mat.

It was from Grandma. A Christmas present. My son was already crawling up and over it, examining it from all sides. He scritched the cardboard, intrigued by the sound.

We didn’t fully open the box until later that afternoon; it was simply too good all on its own. It could be pushed around, shaken, climbed on, sat on and tapped at. It demanded close inspection at every joint and corner. The top flaps, which were taped up, generated significant interest.

The next week, the Fedex man returned. Another parcel. Another animated visit at the window, another ring at the door, another box. Our little game. It went on throughout the holiday season and was a much better gift than any of the actual material items that came in the boxes. We built networks of tunnels with the boxes, adding cut out windows and annexes. We were all filled with excitement when the Fedex man suddenly showed up. Who knew what size and shape the next box would be?

Once the holidays ended and the box tunnel fell apart, we used the cardboard to build ramps for our son’s toy cars. Many months later, after most pieces had gone out in the recycling, there remained one panel with a set of window flaps that we still played peekaboo with.

Our son is 15 months old now and whenever he hears a car coming up the driveway, he races to the nearest window and scouts around for the vehicle. Now that we are hosting more visitors again, he knows that cars don’t just mean boxes; they mean playdates and hugs from Grandma and Grandpa and visits with friends who drive very captivating muscle cars.

He never knows who it’s going to be, and that’s part of the fun. I get the feeling he always holds out a little hope that it’s that Fedex man bringing a new box to play with. And on very special days, it still is.

— Charlotte Helston gave birth to her first child, a rambunctious little boy, in the spring of 2021. Yo Mama is her weekly reflection on the wild, exhilarating, beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring journey of parenthood.


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