P.S. Please Send Stickers!


The first summer our older son went away to Camp Belknap, we sent him with his new black trunk and a few stickers he’d chosen clustered in one corner. The first letter home from him took longer than expected (it always does), but all seemed to be going well.

 “P.S.” it read, “please send stickers.”

I spoke to my mother, who had also received a letter from our son. “He asked me to send stickers,” my mom reported.

Another letter arrived. There was little news, but another request for stickers.

It was becoming apparent that we really needed to get some stickers in the mail, quickly.

Where does one go for stickers for a ten-year-old boy to add to his camp trunk? I didn’t really know. I dug through the drawer where I keep my stationery and found heart stickers and Edward Gorey stickers.  Were these appropriate?  Hardly!  But in the mail they went.

Fast forward two years to last summer and we were now sending two boys away for two weeks of summer camp.  We’d learned a thing or two.  Send lots of socks and underwear, even if they don’t use them all. (We felt better imagining they would.)  Pack multiple flashlights (and extra batteries), in case one breaks.  Mornings are cold, so send an extra layer of warm clothes.  More pre-addressed envelopes than we thought they’d need—that I made them hand write ahead of time (because I once had a college intern who didn’t know how to address an envelope).  And yes, we found stickers.

In the intervening two years, I had bought a bookstore, where we sell stickers, so this made things a little easier.  I had grand plans for care packages and stocked my store accordingly—a range of books good for mailing, a wide variety of cards, small gifts.  My mother is a master care package sender and, as the recipient of many joyous boxes from her, I have taken her philosophy to heart.

First, of course, is the matter of snacks.  Snacks are likely not allowed to be sent to camp, but for all other care packages, send good treats.  Candy works great.  Cookies, obviously.  A jar of Fluff. Something delicious and unexpected.  All the better if usually off-limits.  A box of Lucky Charms if you usually don’t allow sugar cereal in the house, for example.

Second, send something practical.  Socks or a headlamp or a battery-powered fan.  Something to do during down time, like a MadLibs or sudoku or any sort of book.  If space or weight is an issue, tuck in a comic book.

Third, send something completely impractical.  A little game or a bobblehead or whatever so long as it is completely stupid but fun or funny.  Get silly.  (While keeping the likes and interests of the recipient in mind, of course.)  Pokemon cards, silly putty, a yo-yo, travel cribbage board, a small stuffie, a scented eraser—you get the idea.

Finally, you want to tape up your package exactly the opposite of how Coco Chanel left the house.  Don’t look in the mirror and remove the last accessory you put on.  Instead, look in the box and add one more treat.  Show no restraint.  Care packages are meant to be over-the-top and decadent and ridiculous and wonderful.  They should be just as much fun to send as to receive.

However, during the summer of 2021, it turned out Covid protocols at our kids’ camp meant we were not allowed to send packages, only letters.  How to put my care package mentality into the confines of a flat envelope?

One solution was to send letters nearly daily.  My husband and I alternated days for the first week.  We sent pop-up cards.  We sent postcards.  We sent regular old letters on lined paper. We slipped in stickers (of course).  We didn’t talk about missing them or anything they might feel they were missing out on.  We kept the news upbeat but boring and asked them lots of questions (which they never answered).  We sent the camp’s address to grandparents, the kids’ aunts and uncles and cousins, and their best friends.  They received many, many letters.

We want our kids to be independent.  That’s part of the goal of sending them to camp.  To have fun with the security of knowing we’re there for them, while learning that they—increasingly—do not need us.  And ultimately, we want our kids to feel loved.  So, we send our reminders, our check-ins, our small tokens to carry with them as they go out into the world. And stickers, lots of them.

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of Harlow’s articles and book recommendations at thecricket.com.

camp belknap, travel cribbage board, edward gorey, hannah harlow