Yesterday I wrote about a Christmas parcel we received from friends in the Netherlands that contained four destroyed books. The books appeared to have been caught in some kind of machinery, though the parcel itself was unharmed. Here’s the book that fared the worst:

I wrote to our Dutch friends to thank them for the parcel, but to let them know what had happened to it. The mystery deepened, though, when M. wrote back to tell me that none of the books came from them. They indeed sent us a book, but it was not in the package. What came in the package were four books they had not sent — but which I was sure they had sent, inasmuch as they were precisely appropriate for my son Matthew and his interests. Also missing from the package was a Christmas ornament.

All I can figure is that there was some kind of machinery fail, either in the Netherlands or in the US, resulting in more than one package being ripped open. Postal (or customs) workers tried to guess which goods went into which package, and taped them back up. I doubt this was the US Postal Service, because on the occasion things like this have happened in the past, the USPS always puts a form note in apologizing for the damage.

When I received the e-mail from M. this morning telling me about the books, I felt terrible. Yesterday when we opened the package, several snapshots fell out of one of the destroyed books, and a two-page letter, in English, written to someone else. The books looked slightly used, and I assumed my Dutch friends had purchased them in a used-books shop, and had not checked to see if the previous owners had left anything behind slipped into the pages. But now it seems reasonable to assume that that letter and those snapshots were sent by someone in Holland to American friends or family. I threw them all away because there was no way to tell who these people were or to whom the letter and the photos belonged, and it felt wrong to be reading someone else’s personal mail.

I went digging through the trash can trying to find the photos, hoping to post them here in the long-shot hope that one of you will recognize the people depicted there. But I did not see them. When my wife gets home, I’ll see if she put them in her recycling bin, wherever that is. I’ll let you know what happens, and hope to post the snapshots here later. Hey, you never know.