Even the funny birthday song I normally inflict on loved ones didn’t seem to cheer my uncle when I called him in London, England last week. He usually laughs loudly as I croak and warble my way through it in a fake British accent.
Because of the COVID lockdown, Uncle G. was spending his 84th birthday entirely alone this year. His two beloved brothers could not visit and he couldn’t leave his flat.
Loneliness and sorrow sounded in his voice.
I screwed up my courage to ask something I’d hesitated about.
“Uncle G,” I said. “I wanted to send you flowers but wasn’t sure you’d want that.”
“Good thing you didn’t,” he replied promptly. “I’m not one for bouquets.”
“Or maybe money. Or… a hamper of food and goodies!” I ended, sounding slightly desperate.
“The hamper,” he said immediately, his voice brightening up. “I’d like the hamper.”
“Anything special you’d like?”
“Let me see… I like Canadian cheese. Aged cheddar.”
Success! I thought. I had finally asked the question and received an answer!
2 years ago, my British cousins had sent our family a huge Christmas wicker hamper filled with fine foods from Fortnum & Mason, the British company famous for their food hampers since the 1700’s. That’s what gave me the idea. So I searched first for Canadian companies who deliver gift hampers overseas, but their stock had been depleted by the Christmas holidays and pandemic lockdowns.
Hmmm. What do to?
Back to Fortnum & Mason. Their hampers didn’t include Canadian cheese, but there were some good aged cheddars.
It would have to do.
Once I got going, selecting a hamper for my beloved uncle became an adventure. There were so many to choose from, and no single (affordable) package included all the items I wanted.
On F & M’s chat line, I met “Stephanie”, who guided me through the process with ease. Turns out I could send the basket I selected and additional items.
The bill was adding up, though – and that was before converting the hefty British pound to Canadian dollars. (1 pound = $1.73 Canadian.)
The phone rang – my sister checking in. “How are you?”
“I’m putting together a birthday gift hamper for Uncle G,” I said. “Can’t believe how much fun I’m having.”
“What a great idea,” she replied. “I’ve been wanting to send him something. Okay if I contribute?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied.
“Maybe the other siblings will want to contribute too. Just let us know how much.”
“Okay!” I said, feeling even happier. This was going to be a birthday gift from not just my branch of the family, but the others as well. Together, we could afford a hamper with aged cheddar, wine, a small ham, smoked salmon, crackers, biscuits, tea and preserves of various kinds and a few condiments too.
Two boxes arrived at my uncle’s flat in London, just 5 days after I made the order – fast delivery during a pandemic lockdown.
“Thank you very much,” he said on the phone. “Please tell everyone I said ‘Thanks and God bless’.”
“I will, Uncle G,” I replied. “I took a few chances. Wasn’t sure if you eat ham or smoked salmon…”
“I like both ham and smoked salmon very much,” he quickly replied. “I put them in the fridge right away.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t send Canadian cheese,” I apologized.
“Everything you sent will be eaten and enjoyed,” he assured me. “There’s nothing you sent that I don’t eat – or drink.”
Best of all? The excitement in my uncle’s voice. It filled my heart with joy. And when I passed on his message to my siblings, they were happy too.