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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau

Christmas in the Mists of Time #5

Every Christmas I have been surprised by the abundance of gifts under our Christmas tree. As a child it was all so amazing to see on Christmas morning. My mother would spend weeks before Christmas wrapping gifts. These would be stacked up around and on top of the window seat in my parent's bedroom waiting for Santa to take them downstairs on Christmas Eve and arrange them under the tree. I was a pretty naive child to have believed all of this for as long as I did. But I suppose that I did because I like to believe in magic and the impossible. My Mother had spent quite a bit of time looking through the Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery-Ward, and Daniel Lowe catalogues in particular selecting and ordering the family gifts. Of course, I had "helped" by also going through the first two especially and indicating things that I would especially like to have. As you can tell from this picture, there were quite a few really small wrapped gifts that year. She apparently would wrap up the least little thing, though not the big bulky ones like my toy kitchen that Christmas. In later years when I helped decorate the tree and arrange the gifts, I discovered another of my Mother's quirks. She absolutely insisted that the bigger boxes be put under the tree first, followed by the medium size ones, and finally the small ones. I have followed this practice myself most years, and it does make things look a bit more impressive than just chunking them helter skelter under the tree. And possibly it helps prevent the smallest packages from getting lost. On Christmas morning Dad would hand out the gifts, and once that was done, we would start unwrapping...but not all at once. The youngest opened her gifts first, followed by the next youngest, and ending with the oldest. It really is a pretty nice way of doing it as we all get to see and enjoy everyone as they discover what's in the box. This stretches out the unwrapping time, too, which makes it more of an "event." My family still follows this practice. But from a practical standpoint, it's great. My Mother was a firm believer in her children writing thank you notes to their aunts, uncles, and grand parents. By having each of us having our turn to open gifts, she was able to keep a list of gifts and note down from whom they came so she would know to whom we needed to write. She would say many times during this process "Save the tags" and we would pass them over to her before ripping into the paper. She also had us save the nicer ribbons, which she would iron and hang on a coat hanger and save to use the following year. I don't iron them anymore, but I do save them. Unlike my Mother, I really don't enjoy wrapping gifts and have become more and more a user, when possible, of gift bags and tissue paper. Which reminds me, I need to get busy wrapping gifts because I have to get them out in the mail ASAP.

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