As I begin to put bags of ripped up wrapping paper out to be taken away by the garbage collectors, I'm reminded of growing up, in my house, where the same wrapping paper made appearances for nearly 20 years. I am also reminded of as I lug seven bags of gift boxes and three tall plastic containers of wrapping paper back into the attic to go along with the three bags of wrapping paper my wife just bought at the store this year. I tell my wife every year that the one thing she doesn't need to buy is paper or boxes, yet another year goes by and I have more to store in the attic. Perhaps it's karma getting back at me for making jokes at my parents' expense. Shall I explain?
It all started at the beginning of the 80's. I was five and up until that point, the Christmas gifts I received were rather big in size. This was partly due to choking hazards in small children, and partly due to being a kid and getting large toys. Just around the age of five, things changed. I was getting away from the large plastic play sets and heading towards the small plastic LEGOs and Star Wars Action Figures. While the boxes began to appear in different sizes, the wrapping paper design stayed the same. I can distinctly remember my Mother wanting us to open presents in a careful fashion. I didn't know why? As a kid, your first instinct is to just rip everything to shreds, looking for the prize inside. It didn't make sense to me that my Mother took the wrapping paper and kept it to the side, once we had extracted the goodies from within its bowels. She even had a paring knife on hand and I remember seeing her folding over the ripped edges and slicing them off, like a baker removing excess crust from a pie. For years, I never knew what to make of this until I was a little older and the truth about that jolly old elf came out like discovering you're inside The Matrix.
Turns out, that my Mother was saving the wrapping paper to use over next Christmas, and hopefully, many Christmas after that. It was nothing to see the wrapping paper used on our Atari at the age of five, show up six years later wrapped around batteries. The older we got, the smaller our presents got, until I was sure I'd be given a gold chain or some other small item utilizing that old wrapping paper. My siblings and I would joke every year that we'd seen that pattern before and every year we'd make sure we'd rip a little more off in order to force our parents to buy new paper. I mean it was totally understandable during the early 80's. Times were a bit tougher then, and you made sacrifices where you could as parents. But, by the time I was in high school, wrapping paper became a cheap product, filling the Dollar Stores across the nation. There was no need to keep using the same paper, year after year. However, my life has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.
I have no intention of reusing paper once it's been wrapped around a gift. In fact, I'm all for using up as much as possible as I am deficient in the art of wrapping. Sometimes, my gifts to family members are deceiving as they are mostly made up of paper. We've even been able to break my Mom of this old habit, although a trip to Promises and a session with Dr. Phil was needed. But it's gone from famine to feast to gluttony when it comes to wrapping paper. My wife will go out and start to do her Christmas shopping and buy a few rolls of paper. Then she'll get done shopping and prepare to start wrapping and will go out and buy more paper. After Christmas is over and we pack up all the decorations for their pilgrimage back into the attic, I am stuck with two or three shopping bags with half used tubes of wrapping paper. The next year comes and the cycle repeats itself. Each year I tell her that she has plenty of paper and each year she worries that my estimate of the supply is about as sound as the Public Works' assessment of the level of road salt available for the coming winter.
As space becomes a premium in our attic, I'm forced to reorganize, shuffle, and unfortunately break a few things, shoving them into any available slot in the attic. This year is no exception. Now, while we go through a lot of wrapping paper on the gifts, we never get the supply level within acceptable limits. Working within a supply chain environment and understanding the concept of inventory vs. space, I continue to argue the point with my wife that she needs to start using the older paper instead of buying new. Her response ranges from the old paper being just that.old or that the older paper won't cover the larger items and she doesn't want to get stuck. My response is, then get rid of the old paper. I'm still waiting for an answer. Boxes are just as bad and take up even more room. While, it isn't the safest of practices, cardboard gift boxes make for excellent kindling in our wood burner. They burn hot enough to help get the wood started when you build a fire. The ink used to color them white or whatever pattern is probably laced with lead and I've inhaled enough fireplace smoke to probably do some damage later in my years.
So, while I lug bags of paper and boxes back up into the attic, somewhere, close by, a woman is probably laughing at me, reminding me that parents truly DO get it. We make fun of them for being adults and not "with it" in terms of social mores but when it comes to parenthood and life, they would gladly give you the gift of hindsight, no wrapping required.