My mother was not – by anyone’s definition – a pack rat. She did not see the sentimental value in “stuff” and did not hang on to anything that served no purpose. She harbored no collections that needed regular dusting and avoided any activity that required a large supply of some-assembly-required supplies.
She did, however, have an unusual horde of gently used gift-wrap, boxes, tissue paper, ribbons and bows that she kept in the doors and drawers of our basement cabinetry. It was the kind of wrapping paper she used throughout the year and not the huge box of Christmas paper that was stored in the attic and only brought down during the holiday season. This all-occasion cornucopia was the closet thing to a craft closet that we had and it was an irresistible treasure trove to a creative type such as myself.
It always seemed like such a treat to be sent to the basement in order to find the perfect wrapping paper for someone’s present. I took great care to rifle through the remnants in search of something that was an appropriate size for the gift it would cover along with coordinating accouterments. There were some guidelines associated with this prized task of course: I was not allowed to use any gift-wrap still in its cellophane package. I was to be extra careful with the scissors because my mother did not have time to take me to the hospital if I stabbed myself. (Yes, I swear she actually said this.) And naturally, I was not allowed to waste transparent tape.
Despite this exhaustive set of rules, I still managed to make a few mistakes. Chief among them was my inability to connect the right kind of gift-wrap with the recipient. I was fine when it came to my friends because I chose paper I recognized from my last birthday, but how was I to know that I could not wrap a gift for my grandma in paper that read “For the Ancient One?”
I also discovered it was wrong to encase an end-of-the-year teacher gift in gold wedding paper…especially if your teacher happens to be a Catholic nun. (In my defense, I thought the doves on the paper were supposed to be the Holy Spirit.) However, my finest moment came on Valentine’s Day when my brother and I presented our parents with an assortment of hand-painted rocks (yes, real out-of-someone’s-driveway-rocks) festooned in a bright pastel pink and blue print.
“Oh look,” my mother said, trying not to laugh. “Baby shower paper!”
“Is this your way of trying to tell me something?” My dad asked.
Although I didn’t get the apparent joke in what I’d done, it was my way of telling them how much I loved them. I chose the paper I liked the most because in my young estimation, it was the best of the bunch. Nothing was too good for my mom and dad and there was no better paper to cover a truly pointless, but well-intentioned gift from the heart.
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