I was always duped. As were my brothers. A box would slide across the floor and we'd begin wrapping not even knowing the contents. My mom always bought so many Christmas presents, we'd spend several evenings in our large family room wrapping. Paper, ribbon, tape and scissors slid from one corner to the next as we each did our part to help. Ready made bows weren't around then, so we made our own winding circles of ribbon, cutting, tying and pulling loops this way and that. Mom's were pretty. Ours, comical. The fireplace would crackle while Andy Williams crooned on the console TV.
When I was a teenager, I did a little better in the wrapping department. I remember one year, for my dad's birthday, I decided to wrap the box top so it could be reused. This, of course, was long before recycling was considered. I don't know why, but the paper I chose was a blue windowpane print with ducks on it. Probably what we had on hand.
"How clever!" Mom said. "We can use this again." And we did. Every Christmas.
Sometime after 1985, the Duck Box resurfaced. Of course, Mom put Christmas paper over it and sent it to my house. Not to be outsmarted, I returned it the following Christmas. That began the "Duck Box" tradition. You never knew when it would appear since it was a standard size - like a dress shirt box. Some years, it held unexciting things like under ware, but other years, it contained the big present. The one you never expected and loved the best.
As the years progressed, the Duck Box took on personality. We couldn't be happy with plain old ducks. Mom got out markers and added festive Santa hats and holly. The next year, I put on sunglass stickers. Mom decided they needed polish on their web toes. One even laid a golden egg. And we didn't stop with the cover. Inside was tissue paper - with Christmas mail stickers, return address labels from our different houses, the original yellowed wrinkled tissue and a few styrofoam packing peanuts thrown in for good measure. At some point, on the back of the box, we began marking the years with our initials. Somehow, we always remembered who had The Duck Box. I loved it.
The Duck Box is gone now. It made it's last trip over 3 years ago. It was my turn to send it to Mom. If I could have wrapped up a cure for cancer, it would have been the best gift ever hidden inside that tissue. Somehow, I knew I'd never see it again, so I carefully clicked pictures. I guess I knew that there would come a time when I'd tell a story about a silly old box full of love. Yep - I just wrapped my own present, Mom. Thanks for the memories.