Mystery parcel received: "Persian Mother's Gift" What could this be?
August 8, 2021 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Picture of the envelope and its contents. Any ideas what this could be, and why it would show up in our mailbox?

This envelope arrived in our mailbox a few days ago containing only a small women's wristwatch. No note or anything else. No return address of any kind. Correctly addressed to my wife's (slightly misspelled) name, with a postage stamp that doesn't appear to have been cancelled. The lack of a USPS postmark and the fact that the envelope and its contents were not protected or mangled in any way suggests it might have been placed in our mailbox by someone other than a USPS letter carrier.

As you can see, it looks to have been written by someone with unsophisticated penmanship, perhaps a child. A few words were scratched out with a black marker. The upper two words left impressions on the paper and seem to be "New" "Years". I managed to peel back the stamp, but the third word seems to have been written in a lighter colored felt tipped pen and left no impression on the paper.

The words, "Persian" "Mother's Gift" have no meaning to us. Nor do the dates, "1930-2019". A memorial of some kind? And the word on quotation marks, "Khanali", also have no significance to us. A name, perhaps?

Nobody in the household has any clue. Few Persian acquaintances here, mostly in a professional setting.The wristwatch itself is for a very small wristed person, isn't very fancy but nice looking regardless. We're all scratching our heads.
posted by 2N2222 to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
It isn't barcoded, either. All mail goes through a regional hub these days, except maybe in rural areas. It was put there by someone, not mailed.
posted by wnissen at 1:00 PM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is there someone living in your neighborhood with Alzheimer's/dementia? Or do you have an acquaintance who has those conditions? This might have been an attempt to mail a gift or keepsake to a friend--only because of the disease, some of the steps understandably went wrong.
posted by kingdead at 1:25 PM on August 8, 2021 [8 favorites]

Do you have a local email group or NextDoor-type website where you could post this?
posted by wisekaren at 1:27 PM on August 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Maybe one of your Persian (or part-Persian) acquaintances had a mother named Khanali who died in 2019, and now they're going through their mother's things and trying to find people to distribute some of them to. Perhaps they thought your wife might like this watch? And after putting a stamp on the letter, they realized it'd be safer to simply drop it off.

It is odd that there's no note or explanation, but it's possible they went around your metro area dropping off lots of things to various friends and acquaintances and figured they'd explain things later.
posted by lisa g at 1:35 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Dead end sleuthing: "Khanali" is an unusual word or name. It shows up only 98 times on Google search, and appears to be an Indian name thought to have a Persian origin. (Also: Khan Ali.) The original idea presumably was to write "Persian New Year's Gift". Maybe they planned to deliver this at New Year's, put it off until Mothers' Day, put it off again and finally just dropped it off without changing the wording again. (Also for what it's worth, in the Persian calendar the New Year is the vernal equinox, ie., March 21.
posted by beagle at 1:39 PM on August 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Chiming back in to add that this could very well be a souvenir of a trip or stay in Iran--many Americans would have been in the country when "mother" was in her 20s or 30s. Or it could be from a different country altogether and remembered as "Persian"... so many possibilities! I'm hooked on this mystery now... perhaps try posting in a watch forum? They would be able to tell the make of the watch.
posted by kingdead at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2021

It is indeed Islamic New Year over the next couple of days. (That is, new year in the lunar Hijri calendar used for observances, rather than new year in the solar Hijri calendar used for civil dates in Iran/Afghanistan.)
posted by offog at 2:18 PM on August 8, 2021

Write to your local newspapers and/or local radio stations and/or local TV stations about it! This is just the sort of thing that makes for a lovely little human interest story. That way you get the word out to a wider group of people, and hopefully someone will come forward to give you more of an explanation.
posted by MiraK at 2:35 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I'd publicize it to local media; it's technically illegal for anyone who isn't a USPS mail carrier to deliver letters to USPS mailboxes (otherwise local companies would just deliver their own junk mail and cut out the middle man, among other things) and I wouldn't want to risk someone getting into trouble over something like this.
posted by Aleyn at 3:52 PM on August 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

No one is getting "in trouble" over this. It is clearly not intended to thwart the postman. In fact, there is a stamp on it so someone purchased that stamp at some point in time. I have nothing but a guess, but I think this was the watch of Khanali who lived from 1930 to 2019. Who they are or why it was sent or placed in your mail box is a mystery.

I would just wait. I think the mystery will reveal itself over time. I doubt this is the only contact you will have.
posted by AugustWest at 5:08 PM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Maybe post some details about the watch? Name of the maker? Anything written on case?
posted by Mid at 6:08 PM on August 8, 2021

Any good deeds done for a neighbour with Persian / Iranian ancestry?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2021

I don't know anything about the watch or address, but I remember seeing somewhere that USPS wasn't cancelling stamps recently because of the pandemic for some reason...Wait, I remember was in this article. Anyway, if it had a stamp on it, I wouldn't assume it wasn't mailed.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:02 PM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is there any way that you can see what the black marker might be obscuring? By holding the paper against a bright light or looking for ball-point indentations? More words could equal more clues.
posted by oceanmorning at 12:02 AM on August 9, 2021

A quick google search led me to an obituary for Iqtidar Ali-Khan, 1930 - 2019 from Detroit MI. Not sure if that helps...
posted by Neeuq Nus at 4:26 AM on August 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Are there any cameras around your mail box or the approach to the box? Yeah I know, too simple. I have a feeling this interesting, wonderful mystery will solve itself. Please, keep us in the loop!
posted by james33 at 6:40 AM on August 9, 2021

Response by poster: So far, no leads.

The watch itself is branded "Wittenauer". It says "Swiss made" "Quartz" but seems to be gold plated brass/stainless pop off back. Not very fancy. No engraving or other personalization.

I'm not aware of any neighbors with dementia.

I'm not inclined to spend any time on NextDoor. It seems that this parcel wasn't completely random. Whoever is responsible certainly knows our correct address and possibly exactly where we live.

There is a household down the street that may be occupied by Iranian/Persian persons. I don't know their names, only waving hi on the rare occasion I see them outside. Next time I see them, I might strike up a conversation. Might be a bit awkward. Not sure I'm up to actually knocking on their door and asking. I did ask a neighbor I know if she had any ideas. She was stumped.

No surveillance camera footage available.

Unfortunately, the scribbled out word under the stamp is undecipherable even with the stamp cleanly removed.

So many possibilities, it's hard to believe that somebody did this completely randomly, though I suppose it's possible. If someone or something turns up, I'll post.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:16 PM on August 9, 2021 [6 favorites]

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