If you have been in my office, you might have noticed a picture of horse head in a boat on my credenza door. What you are looking at is my families gift-wrapping contest for Christmas. The horse head was made out of packing paper cut into the shape and painted with the gift stapled inside. There was also a gift inside the oars, the gold boxes that were stacked to make a shape of a boat and all the boxes wrapped in white under the cotton balls that were to represent a bowl. The theme of my display that year was Western Michigan University mascot (a Bronco) rowing a boat (the coach’s motto for the year…everyone has to pull together to win) in a Bowl of Cotton (WMU played in the Cotton Bowl that year). I know…it’s weird…but it was the winning display in 2017 and it’s a tradition!
The tradition started innocently enough. My sister Pat was 14 years old when I was born and got married when I was in 4th grade. She would wrap the gifts for our family all in the same paper and her husband’s family all in a different paper. I loved that all the boxes were coordinated and matched. I was always in charge of wrapping my mom’s gifts in this icky old fashion folded sheets of Christmas paper that she bought to support the church. I couldn’t wait for the day when I was working and could afford to buy my own paper and ribbon…which I did the first Christmas out of college with a real job. The paper was gold with some decoration that I tied up with gold ribbons and bows. I spent hours wrapping. I was SOOO proud of my “display” of gifts for once and wanted to burst with pride. After dinner that evening I said to Pat, (sort of inappropriate but honest) “I think for the first time my gift wrappings were prettier than yours.” Well as you can imagine, having a highly competitive family in nature, a tradition was started. We called it The Competition.
For a few years, Pat and I and sometimes my sister Rosemary, would go the extra mile to see who could wrap more elaborately than the other. That all changed in 1981 when Rosie came up with this idea to wrap her boxes to look like buildings and homes in a New England village (think of Mind Craft in 3-D). She had a church, homes and stores all with doors and windows and even some people looking out of the windows. She used accessories from my nephew’s train set including bridges, cars and telephone poles, to finish the town. There was NO doubt who the