For many years, Phyllis Sandoz, of Backus, has been sending personalized presents to family and friends around Christmastime. Most receive a calendar bookmark. In the past, some also received a full sized, printed and comb-bound calendar.

"She has a routine where she makes up her bookmarks with who it's to and who it's from and signs it," said Sandra Savage, Sandoz's daughter. "There's a gospel quote on the front and she laminates each one and cuts each one out. She eventually started making family calendars. Each year it's a special design and I've gotten them every year."

The gifts come like clockwork before Christmas, so on Monday, Dec. 27, when a comb-bound calendar full of personalized address labels arrived at Savage's home, it was expected. Except for one detail.

The calendar was for the wrong year.

Savage sent her mother a Facebook message.

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" I couldn't quite figure it out. I thought maybe it was just a bookmark that I had picked up and mailed out to them. I generally do not have any left over but one thing after another it didn't seem right. I sure didn't want her to think I had lost my memory or anything."

— Phyllis Sandoz.


"Is there a significance to you sending me a 2014 calendar?" she wrote.

The fact that the calendar was for 2014 stirred up quite a bit of confusion for both mother and daughter.

"We were trying to figure it out," Savage said. "I was wondering if she was sending it to me so I'd have everybody's birthday regardless of year."

Eventually, the mystery unraveled.

Savage realized the address on the envelope was a former address in Fremont, California. The same address was printed on the address labels that Sandoz had also printed as a gift.

"I pulled out the envelope it came from," Savage said. " She sent it on the 13th or 10th of December. I looked and it said '2013.' So she was way ahead of schedule."

"I think what started it is I asked her to look at the amount of money on the stamps, because I figured we could tell by that," Sandoz said. "Then she found the postmark was December of 2013."

That Savage received the gift at all is almost as baffling, because not only does Savage not live in Fremont, she doesn't live in California anymore. In 2014, she remarried and moved to a temporary home in Idaho awaiting construction of their permanent home, where they moved to after it was finished.

Not only did the 2014 calendar find its way to her after two moves, but after a name change as well, because in 2013 she was Sandra Lee.

"I don't know how it got all the way to us after all these addresses, especially without any forwarding on it," Savage said. "I'm shocked, because how could the post office find all these different addresses to finally have it land in our forever home that we just had custom built up here in Nampa?"

It's possible that the package was in limbo until Savage filed a formal change of address for her current home, but that's just a guess. Savage said she has received the personalized gifts every year since. She thinks she didn't notice the absence of a gift in 2013 because she was planning her wedding at the time.

Savage doesn't recall ever knowingly having a letter get lost in the mail, but she was happy it wasn't something important she was waiting for. Both women were entertained once they figured everything out.

"It's great that it was kind of a slice of the past to get back to 2014," Savage said. "A lot of people have passed away since then, but I still have their birthdays to remember them by."

"It was fun," Sandoz said. "I couldn't quite figure it out. I thought maybe it was just a bookmark that I had picked up and mailed out to them. I generally do not have any left over, but one thing after another it didn't seem right. I sure didn't want her to think I had lost my memory or anything."

A representative of the U.S. Postal Service declined a request for an interview, but did say these occurrences where a letter shows up many years later are rare.

"In most cases these incidents do not involve mail that had been lost in our network and later found," wrote Desai Abdul-Razzaaq, of USPS Corporate Communications. "What we typically find is that old letters and postcards - sometimes purchased at flea markets, antique shops and even online - are re-entered into our system. The end result is what we do best - as long as there is a deliverable address and postage, the card or letter gets delivered."

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.