And Presents on the Tree

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about my mother, it will probably not surprise you to learn that she was a master gift wrapper. Whereas I usually have a lone roll of wrapping paper that is mostly empty and half-crumpled in the back of a closet somewhere, my mom had a whole wrapping station. At any given time, she had a dozen or more pristine rolls of wrapping paper. She also had several bins full of ribbons and tissue paper. Not just the cheap curling ribbons but grosgrains and satins and I don’t know what all, in every color and pattern and texture. She would notice a beautiful ribbon or paper while we were out somewhere and buy it to have on hand.

You see, my mother knew that half of the magic of gifts was in their presentation. A beautifully and carefully wrapped present enhances the mystery and anticipation that makes getting gifts so fun. The care given a present is another sign of love, too. Just as much as preparing a nice meal for someone you love, wrapping a present is something you do for someone else that takes time and consideration. These details were not lost on my mother. She was a master of this sort of detail. And, of course, she loved all things beautiful; boxes under a tree were no exception.

Christmas was her time to shine. She carefully selected her wrapping to match the tone of the present and her relationship with its recipient. She would sometimes use a solid tissue paper with a beautiful image from a Christmas card she had saved from the previous year. The ribbon would frame the image at artful angles around the corners. Often she would pair ribbons together. It was true artistry.


After she died, I inherited her wrapping supply. This Christmas I’m trying to live up to her, but of course I don’t quite have her touch. I have been freely using her beautiful satin ribbons to put the perfect finish on a present. But I’m starting to come to the ends of the rolls of a lot of these ribbons—and it recently dawned on me, with an ache in my chest, that her ribbon supply will run out before long. Which will be another ending. Another way in which life has marched on and distanced me from her.

But the memories of Christmas Eves past with her carefully wrapped presents peeking out from under the lower boughs of the Christmas tree are beautiful gifts for me now. My own gift wrapping artistry is a mere shadow of hers. But I think of her every time I wrap a present. And that is one of the loveliest gifts I can think of.


2 thoughts on “And Presents on the Tree

  1. Oh, Ellen, this is so wonderful, and as a recipient of several gifts from your mother, I can testify that everything you said is true. It was the same with the beautiful Christmas cards she chose to send each year with her delicate handwriting and exquisite notes and wishes. I’m sending you a Christmas card tomorrow (finally) with a long letter to catch you up. So eager to hear from you. Thank you for writing this beautiful essay. Your mother would be (& IS) so proud of you. You really have a gift for writing, and Kathy knew that early on and encouraged you. Oh, how we all miss her so much. Love, Sandee


    1. Thank you for your sweet words, Sandee! I hope you had a nice Christmas and New Year’s and look forward to being caught up on everything with you guys. Sending lots of love and all the best for 2018!


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