She wrapped her heart carefully with beautiful paper &
ribbon & her eyes sparkled with the thought of unwrapping
it together with me.
– brian andreas
I love holidays! Often, I wonder who looks forward to Christmas more, me or the boys. I love all the hustle and bustle & all that we refer to as the “commercial” parts of the holiday – the trees, the lights, the presents, the countdown calendars, the letters to Santa… ALL OF IT!!! Best of all, I love wrapping presents. I carefully pick out the papers; a mix of patterns, stripes & solids, with the intent of mixing. I’m not a curly ribbon kid of gal. Instead, I love building sculptures of sorts on top of each gift. This year, I made frogs on lily pads, fire-breathing dragons & giant flowers under our tree. My personal favorites were hand-holding aliens boarding their cardboard ship & a squirrel eating silver acorns. I get it… This doesn’t really sound Christmas-like, but it makes the boys eyes grow large & the packages are super sparkly, so I love it anyway.
I get this love of gift-wrapping from my mother. She had a job as a seasonal gift wrapper when she was in high school. As an adult, she still created perfect right angles, invisible taped edges and silky smooth sides. When I was little, I tore through my gifts, but after watching my mother wince a few birthdays in a row, I learned to open my gifts patiently & thoughtfully. I never threw a scrap of paper away. If the tape didn’t peel off easily, I could use my nails to slice it along the edge & keep the paper intact. As the gift appeared, I’d smooth, then fold the paper and hand it to my smiling mother. As the festivities ended, my mother would take her pile upstairs. She kept these supplies under her bed, strategically placed in bins, rolls and boxes. The stacks of wrapping were endless and came in all shapes and sizes. The papers were sparkly, shiny and matte. There were textures, felted patterns and glittery designs. I could tell you what paper was used to wrap my first makeup kit, where most velvet bows originated from and what year the burgundy silk flower made its way into our lives.
It seemed tortuous to me, opening these prize-worthy packages she’d spent so much time on. BUT, watching her face as the paper-seams split was magical. Her lips turned upward and her beautiful turquoise eyes sparkled. “How could she watch these masterpieces be destroyed?”, I wondered. She was nearly bursting as she waited for us to see what was inside.
I lost my mother recently. I search for her daily; in the Prius beside me on the highway, in the silver hair in front of me at the grocery, on the other side of the door when I go to visit my dad. I long for her voice, her written word, her smell, her touch. This business of losing my mother is seriously hard stuff. I felt like I was just barely hanging on the other day, like my own seams were splitting. I wondered what my mother would think, watching me unravel & unwrap. I wept on the corner of my own bed; tears flowing and life tearing me apart.
Instead of dwelling, I’m trying to find the meaning of times like these and I guess we are built to be torn apart on occasion. We can enjoy the process of making ourselves super sparkly, but discovering what’s inside can be magical too. Mom knew this secret the whole time and the real gifts were always right where we needed them; within reach. The real gift was taking the walk upstairs to find the perfect wrapping. The real gift was how my mother packaged up life. So… I decided to look under my own bed. (Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as organized and only found wadded up clothing and the many sock partners I’ve been nagging my boys about.) But, there was also a great pair of black leggings that paired well with my mother’s long kimono, the one she picked out for my wedding. I put them on with her simple gold earrings, the ones she wore with everything & bought multiple pairs of. I put on the sapphire ring, the one which was her own mothers before and reminded her of Eleanor daily. I threw on some blush and the lipstick I took from her makeup bag last year. I guess I was ready. My reflection showed some seriously swollen eyes, but mostly memories of my best friend. My mother’s wrapping brought me back to life that morning and carried me through the day.
I’m learning be patient with life as I build back up. There’s joy in learning to find my mother in myself. What a gift.