Friday, December 18, 2009

You might want to rethink it...

At brunch the other day with the mommies, we were sharing family traditions and Dot talked about how we save the paper at our house, no tearing unless someone buys their own paper and says its ok. Otherwise, everyone is armed with a knife to slice the tape and we carefully open each package and save the paper. Yes, there is leftover tape on all the paper and creases from presents past, little holes and tears, but every aged fold and mark, records time, family and memories. Its tradition and started many years ago with my mom and grandmother and I think it was because money was really tight and they both wanted really pretty paper and bows. So, after spending their budget on the beauty, they wanted to save it for next year.
As expected, and usual when our gift opening practice is shared with the rippers and tearers of the world, eyes rolled and giggles were covered. That's ok, we do not limit our family peculiarities to any particular area, but rather do many things that normal people don't understand. That way we make sure our children grow up to be weird don't fit easily into other families and stay close.

Anyway, today I did some wrapping and like every other year I looked at the paper and began reminiscing. I don't necessarily remember any certain gift when I look at the paper our family has used, some for up to 50 years. But I remember things like my grandpa always using the same gold crinkly foil for my grandma. When he was younger he purchased what he thought were some kind of bow or package decoration that he thought was entirely appropriate, truly it was little wreaths that were supposed to have candles set in the middle of them. I don't think anyone ever told him and he used them year after year. No tag needed, when you saw that paper with those candle rings you knew...from grandpa to grandma. When my grandmother passed away, I took the paper out of the box and saved it, never to be used again. The candle rings aren't in any of my decorations anymore. But I noticed as he got older and his eyesight was failing, he gave up on ribbons and tags and began to decorate and label his gifts with magic markers.

So touching it is to my heart that I can look at his writing on that paper and remember how much fun he was at Christmas allowing us to tease him and often tossing a perfectly timed joke back at us. And though I discourage sticking label tags to the paper, this one is oh so special, because it is handwriting that reflects an elementary age Dot with some thoughtful thing for her hero.
Call us crazy, but we also save the ribbons. Back in the day, there was no wired ribbon and I swear my mom and grandmother would make every single one of their own bows. Not the stick on kind. Wrap around the hand, fold in half, cut little "V"s, tie curly ribbon around the middle and fluff to perfection. Then, I say then...after Christmas they would cut the curly ribbon, stretch out the wider rbbon that had been the bow, iron it...I said iron it, roll it back around the hand and tie the curly ribbon and save it, unfluffed for next year. Yes, huh, they DID! Most of those bows are gone or don't make it on my packages because I have a special attachment to the wired ribbon and tieing the bows. BUT, but...I do save the ribbon as well. No ironing, but winding it back up and storing it neatly in a box for next year. Yes, huh, I have one obsessive-compulsive behavior and it is the Christmas wrapping. D is so proud, except it drives him crazy cause he is from a ripping heritage.
Call us crazier, but we also save boxes. Yes, we do. Fold them back to flat and keep them in a box.

I wish I could say its cause we are so environmentally friendly, or the cost for new boxes is high, but honestly its just what we do. And seriously, can you look back at your boxes and see where one of your boys was wrapping and marked the box so he wouldn't forget who it was to? Because this is clearly middle school legibility and he wrote "Mom" for heaven's sake. I may be framing this one.
Today as I was wrapping I noticed that it is so convenient to use the same boxes over and over because the wrapping paper fits them perfectly and no waste or cutting.
Same thing with the ribbon, already cut to perfect length. We have, by this time accumulated more paper than we will ever use, but after all these years and all these memories how on earth could I part with a single piece even if it only makes it up and down from the attic and will never see an actual package again. But ahhhh tradition, quirky "call us silly" tradition. Time consuming memory making habits that tie us together. So roll your eyes if you must, mine are misting over with the tenderness of sharpy written on a piece of foil that will remind me of all kinds of goodness from Christmas past. Merry Christmas!

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