Tag Archives: presents

February Column Michiana House & Home: A gift from the heart

gift-wrap-station-4      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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Fabulous Fridays: A Grand Slam

It’s not often that I am really and truly surprised. I don’t know if I came equipped with some kind of super intuition or what, but I have a way of unintentionally tapping into things or guessing presents in such a way that it ruins the giver’s intended secret. While I willingly admit that I used to use this gift for evil, now that I am older, I really do try not to turn on this psychic power. I no longer guess at gifts under the tree. I do not shake them. When someone says “betcha you don’t know what I got you!” I will say “you’re right.” Because, people try hard…why should I use my Wonder Twin powers and ruin that?

Of course that means that when someone does really shock me, it’s even better! Such was the case yesterday when my youngest (let’s call him “Gleek”) handed me a present that was obviously a book. I mean, come on…I could feel the binding!) For weeks he had told me that he had gotten me something at work and had hinted that it was a small stuffed orangutan so I assumed that he’d had a last minute change of heart and went with a book he picked up somewhere. Fair enough.

to my surprise, it wasn’t just any book. It was the autobiography of Tennis icon Arthur Ashe and when I looked inside, I noticed that it was signed! Now, Arthur Ashe has been dead for quite a while, so Gleek pulling this one off was pretty miraculous by anyone’s standards!

According to him, he was helping out a dear friend and local bookseller who asked him if he had his mother’s Christmas present yet. Gleek said “no” to which this wonderful “Bookmama” said, “I’ve got you covered.” She handed him the book which prompted him to ask, “Who’s Arthur Ashe?” This question illicited  the rather shocked reponse, “You live in your mother’s house, and you DONT know who Arthur Ashe is?” Gleek thought about it for a minute and said, “Well, I’ve heard of Arhtur Ashe stadium…isn’t that at the U.S. Open?” Um….duh, Kid. To his credit, he realized that this must be a big deal and took the time to actually looked him up and put all of the pieces together. He even asked a few of his friends at the Zoo if they knew who Ashe was. (They did and assured him that I would be blown away by the gift!)

And I was. Not only because I have such dear friends who would look out for my kid like that, but also because my son took the time to research the gift so that he would have a better handle on what he had given me. I don’t think that even O.Henry could have come up with a better tale.

Of course this also means that the boy can look me in the eye and lie to me rather convincingly which causes me to rethink all of the cookies, crackers and snack foods that have gone missing overs her years and his constant insistence that he was not the culprit. He’s actually had me thinking that the “not me” ghost might be real! Guess the jig is up on that one son, and it’s time to shake the mothballs out of my spidey senses.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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MHH Column December: “Present” Tense

Surprise-surprise     I don’t mind telling you that I am an expert present hider. I mean I’m scary good at it. I’ll disguise the hottest gizmo of the year in a bright pink Victoria’s Secret bag, have my sons sign for their own gifts from the UPS man and then convince them that I ordered the complete series of Sex & The City on Blu-Ray. No one is ever the wiser.

I did not learn these tricks from my parents but because of them. My folks were not the brightest bulbs in the box when it came to hiding gifts. Every year they would take the day off work, do all of their shopping, hide everything in the attic and threaten my brother and I with bodily harm should we decide to do a little snooping.

“If you pull down the attic ladder, something will fall on your head and the surprise will be ruined,” my mother warned.

This statement was akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull as far as I was concerned. Exactly what would hit me? I wondered. Would it be the actual present or something else? (Visions of being pelted by Strawberry Shortcake haunt me to this day.) Would it require stitches?

For weeks, my brother and I watched as my parents journeyed to the attic pausing only to remove a ratty sleeping back from the fold out ladder. THAT was their defense? Amateurs!

It didn’t take long for us to spring the booby trap and do some “investigating.” To play fair, I didn’t want to but my brother made me join in for fear that if I wasn’t in on the caper, I would tattle on him. (He was probably right.) However, we were not prepared for the pre-wrapped booty that awaited us and left us as clueless as we were before.

“I guess we’ll have to unwrap a couple,” my brother said, picking at the tape of one package with his name on it. I demurred, after all I didn’t want to OD on my delinquency.

If the experience taught me anything, it was not to underestimate the curiosity of a child at Christmas time. The most innocent looking cherub can become as deceitful as the devil himself if they think that a sleeping bag may be the only thing stopping them from seeing their long-wished for Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. When it came time to hide my own children’s presents I not only hid them in plain sight, but when they weren’t looking, I removed them off property completely and took them to my mother’s house. I thought I was so clever, but it turned out I wasn’t the first person in my family to think of it.

“We used to do that with you kids’ presents,” my mom said.

Her words surprised me. “Really? When was this?”

“The year after you and Bruce climbed into the attic when we told you not to,” she replied.

“How did you know about that?” I asked, amazed by her admission.

With a bemused twinkle in her eye my mother said, “Because Julie, Santa knows EVERYTHING!”

Yes he does, Mom. Yes he does.


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