The odd gift out

I coordinate my Christmas wrapping paper–like the holidays aren’t stressful enough, right? I do not have OCD– but I am a Virgo. It’s what we do. There aren’t many rules, just an overarching element of color or pattern or theme. One year might be blues and silvers, and another old-fashioned brown paper with jute string and red bows. I even have a rule for those; if the bows don’t match the paper, they should at least compliment it. The work is worth it for those few breathtaking moments when everything is under the tree in one shimmering wave of color-coordinated splendor. And I love it.

Except for that one gift. Because there’s always that one gift.

We spent months cleaning out my grandfather’s house after he died. Poppa had been fiercely independent well into his nineties–independent but forgetful. We went through piles of junk; books and pictures, old phones and unopened mail. Pots and pans that hadn’t seen the outside of a cupboard since my grandmother died twenty-five years earlier.

I kept my grandmother’s half-finished cross stitch but said goodbye to her china. I clutched Poppa’s mug to my chest as though it were precious treasure and not a ninety-nine-cent relic, still stained with coffee. There were a few other things I tucked away; a roasting pan. A jewelry box. A roll of Christmas wrapping paper I found buried beneath some clothes.

The paper is red and green–and ancient. And probably from a dollar store. It had been lost for years under a pile of vintage suits and dusty luggage. It is perpetually wavy and never flattens, no matter how tight you pull it. The first year it smelled musty and old. It still had that scent on Christmas morning when I handed the gift to my mother. It made her cry.

It no longer makes anyone weep, but it has become a favorite Christmas tradition. I only ever wrap one gift with it every year–mainly because I’m afraid of running out sooner than I’m ready to. It has never matched any of the paper I have used over the years; I’ve made a point of it. It is bold and bright and sticks out like a glaringly sore thumb against a sea of perfectly matched everything. And I love it.

Published by Michelle

Mom. Writer. Mmmm... that's about it.

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