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Gwen Rockwood: Mother and daughter tag team to wrap up the holiday

by Gwen Rockwood | December 24, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

My 76-year-old mother has a thing for boxes and has for many years. In her mind, throwing away or recycling a sturdy box of any decent size is like throwing out a $50 bill. You just don't do it.

This sometimes causes friction between the two of us. Because I prefer to do most of my shopping online, we get a lot of boxes. Once I empty them, I set them by the garage door so one of us can take them out to the recycling bin on our next trip outside. Mom often walks by an abandoned box as if it's a puppy looking for a home.

Her: "You're not going to throw out that box, are you? That's a good box."

Me: "It is a good box, but I don't need it."

Her: "But you might need it later."

Me: "Mom, I get a lot of things delivered, and I can't keep every box that lands on our doorstep."

Her: {Insert disappointed silence here.}

I have a feeling that, when my back is turned, she probably rescues many of the boxes from the recycling bin and squirrels them away in the crawlspace or some dark corner of the garage. Maybe she imagines that, one day, a man might come to her door and say, "Hi there, ma'am. This might sound crazy, but I'm prepared to give you one-hundred thousand dollars for each and every sturdy box you can hand over right now."

Then she'd drag out her secret stash of boxes and become an instant millionaire. And she'd buy a T-shirt to wear every day that said, "See there? I told you so."

So far, that box fantasy hasn't happened.

But during November and December, she and I are finally on the same page when it comes to saving boxes -- because we re-use them for wrapping Christmas presents. While store-bought gift boxes are pretty, there's something about wrapping a toy or a book in a Schwan's frozen chicken breast box that maintains the mystery a little bit longer. We like it when the box doesn't spoil the surprise too soon.

We've used Amazon boxes, old Crock-Pot boxes, and even Triscuit boxes. Almost any box will do, and Mom can always be counted on to have saved one that's just the right size.

That's when I take over as the official Christmas gift wrapper. While some people think it's a chore to wrap gifts, I've always found it to be strangely relaxing. One of the best things about being the gift wrapper is that I get to kick everyone else out of the room to leave me in peace, lest the surprises be ruined. Then I gather rolls of wrapping paper, ribbons, tape, scissors and gift tags, lining them up within easy reach.

Then I pour myself a Dr Pepper on the rocks and cue up an old movie I like on the television's DVR list. After that, I watch, sip, cut, fold, tape, crease and repeat.

It's fun to choose wrapping paper and coordinating ribbon for each gift. I like nestling each item I've bought inside boxes lined with fluffy tissue paper. And I like primping each package until the old ugly boxes -- usually ones Mom has saved for the past three holidays -- are once again covered in bright paper and sparkling ribbons. There's something satisfying about watching those old cardboard boxes turn into a treasure trove at the base of the Christmas tree.

So, here's to the box hoarders, the gift wrappers and all those who do their part to make the holidays merry and bright. From our home to yours, have a healthy, happy and very merry Christmas.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at [email protected] Her book is available on Amazon.

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