Home November 2016 Unpacking the Meaning of Value

Unpacking the Meaning of Value

1116mayravBoxes in the mail always meant something special. Hand-knit sweaters from my grandmother in Israel. Pumpkin bread baked by a friend across the country. Unique toys from relatives around the world.

Now a box comes in the mail practically every day. And often it’s filled with toilet paper.

We live in a hyper convenient world where, with the click of a button, anything we desire can be delivered to our doorstep, and I wonder whether the regularity and pedestrian nature of these deliveries dampens one of the central sources of magic for children: The suspense of finding out what’s in the box. What’s in the box? These days, nothing much.

The other day, I received a box that contained only trash bags. Someone got paid to deliver an item to my doorstep that I’m literally going to throw away the first chance I get.

No way will brown paper packages tied up in string ever rank among my kids’ favorite things. Sure, they get the occasional birthday or Hanukkah gift wrapped in Amazon-blue. But for the most part, they’re growing up in a world where boxes are just compostable shopping carts.

Judaism teaches us that it’s not what’s in the box that matters; it’s that someone thought enough about us to send a gift. That’s why the Torah features so many animal sacrifices for a non-corporeal G-d. He asked for it, so we fired up the grill.

But what if we send the box to ourselves? And what if it’s filled with laundry detergent?

I got my answer the other night, when an oven-sized Amazon Pantry box thunked onto our doorstep. My kids immediately lost their minds.

My husband and I figured the kids would be disappointed with the contents. If a box this large had been dropped on my doorstep when I was a child, I could have reasonably assumed it contained a thrifty out-of-town relative. But we knew it was filled instead with household items we hadn’t had time to buy elsewhere.

“Can we open it?”

“Knock yourself out.”

After squabbling over who was going to slice through the packing tape, the kids finally ripped the box open and started to unpack its contents, announcing each item with glee:

“Toothpaste!”

“Deodorant!”

“Paper towels!”

“Ziploc bags!”

“More Ziploc bags!”

“Even more Ziploc bags!”

The play-by-play went on, with the kids genuinely excited about each mundane object. By the end, our living room was filled with household goods, bits of cardboard and those air-pillows that have infuriatingly replaced bubble wrap.

More importantly, it was filled with happy children—as happy as I remember being when I opened a box as a child.

They dragged the giant box into the playroom, along with stickers, scissors and markers to create a spectacular playhouse and to remind me about the most important thing I had forgotten about packages: The content might not always be exciting, but when something arrives just for us, that alone is special.

Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.

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