My first Christmas morning in St. Louis, circa late 1950s, my stepfather Bob, Mom, little brother Mark and I drove out to see Bob’s Aunt D. We’d just moving from Washington DC, where it was warmer. St. Louis that morning was bitter cold, the sky leaden, air snowy. Aunt D had hit upon hard times but managed to find a house of sorts behind Grant’s Farm for her and her children.
It was a tar-paper shack. Aunt D and the kids were delighted to see us, ushering us in. I don't remember any lamps, just a shadowy space with a gas space heater that was like a king on a thrown, the heart of the house. It was cranked up high, and cast a warm glow as well as making the place surprisingly toasty.
In the box we brought, besides a turkey, bread, milk and eggs, was a poppy seed cake my Mom had made. Aunt D grabbed plates and forks and we all tucked into the marvels of Polish baking. Despite the gloomy surroundings Aunt D shined. She had a rosy disposition (unlike her nephew) which filled her impoverished house with far more sunshine than our more middling apartment.
They had a lopsided fresh-cut scrub pine tree, wedged in a bucket, festooned with strung popcorn, and some hand-cut tin stars, made with tin snips, of the lions of Lyle’s Golden Syrup cans. Nestled underneath the tree were a few forlorn presents wrapped in newspaper...no tape, a little string, the edges neatly folded and tucked under so they were securely wrapped. Penciled in a corner was the recipient’s name.
The newspaper gift wrap was shocking to my more pampered eyes. I’d never seen a present wrapped in anything but wrapping paper. I’ve no recollection what Aunt D gave us. But the recycled newsprint was my memory gift.
I bought no wrapping paper in 2003, a very expensive year for us. Not until recently have I started to indulge again in one or two rolls of real wrapping paper.
the year 2003, like the visit to Aunt D’s, was a reawakening of more simple values. I’m ever on the lookout now for clever ways to make cost-free wrapping paper, for I’m a keen devotee of lovely wrappings. Check out my next blog, Newspaper Bow for a photo guide on how to make this bow.