Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.29.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Christmas wrapped up tight

Someone - and it may have been someone in my own family - has given my mother a role of duct tape. This is like giving heroin to someone who obviously shouldn't have heroin.

Mom is infamous for her taping skills, as was her mother before her, further evidence that you can't fight genetics or adhesives.

Every year, Mom's box of Christmas gifts arrives in the mail wrapped in brown parcel paper, every corner sealed tight with tape, our address written on the paper in black marker.

Underneath the brown paper is the box, likewise fully sealed. Mom also writes the address directly on the box just in case the paper gets savagely ripped off by a disgruntled postal employee. This, of course, is unlikely. Everyone knows that disgruntled employees don't rip packages; they smash them flat.

(I apologize to all the postal employees for perpetuating this unkind myth. For the record, most postal employees are kind, generous, helpful, and mentally stable - especially the one I happen to be married to and who may be reading this.)

This year Mom's box arrived sealed with duct tape. It required two people to rip off the paper, neither of whom were disgruntled. In fact, we were both fully gruntled at the time.

It's all good. Mom's Christmas parcel - tape and all - is one of those things that trigger seasonal sentiment. With religious fervour lost in the modern Christmas, the most you can hope for are these warm fuzzies.

That's not meant to be as cynical as it sounds. We're cynical the rest of the year; Christmas is an opportunity to be unabashedly sentimental - a chance to let out all that pent up mush.

Thus when I open Mom's Christmas box with the effort of unsealing the Arc of the Covenant and I see the perfectly wrapped presents inside, each one labeled in Mom's neat penmanship, I'm drawn back to childhood Christmases.

Things were either very tight financially or my parents were channeling their own Depression-era childhood in those days, because we had to "save" the wrapping paper. Imagine trying to save the wrapping paper when it had more tape than Richard Nixon's office. (Those of you under 25, go ask your parents to explain that last joke.)

Besides the gifts, the box usually contains some homemade goodies. This year, there were chocolate truffles and Scotch cakes, what the rest of the world calls shortbread cookies. As tradition dictates, the Scotch cakes were arranged in a greeting card box, the kind with a clear plastic cover. Wax paper separated the two layers of cookies. And, yes, the Scotch cakes were Scotch taped.

Last year, Mom wasn't feeling well and was unable to bake. Our parcel arrived cookie-less. It was a sad reminder that we're all getting older and that my warm childhood Christmas memories are falling further and further away.

I wonder too what memories my own children are building. Certainly, as I took them shopping last weekend, there didn't seem to be a lot of joy in their gift-buying, only a sense of overwhelming pressure. And so much stuff! So much stuff no one really needs.

Take for instance the men's underwear with micro-beads of lotion in the fibre "to keep skin smooth and soft." I dunno, for most men lotion in underwear might be more a cause for embarrassment, if you catch my drift.

I do know that my children won't find Christmas memories in the mall or in gadget undies. I do hope they find it, though. Maybe it will be in something we do without really thinking about it, like the way we wrap gifts or gently poke fun at public employees. I just hope it's something that brings them back to a place where all was calm and all was bright.

May you too find your own duct-taped box this Christmas.