If you want to know who I am as a person, perhaps no anecdote conveys it better than the time I found a huge box of old wrapping paper at an estate sale.
(Some of you are now certain that you don’t want to know me, and I accept that.)
I had met my sister, Caitlin, in Oakley for a fun little weekend getaway. Yes, there are more exciting places than the northwest Kansas hamlet of Oakley, but our grandparents had lived there, so we love it in a nostalgic kind of way. We love to go to the nice little swimming pool, and to visit the Colonial Steakhouse, where the waitress somehow still recognizes us. There’s even a movie theater, run by a high school class to keep it open. Local businesses take turns sponsoring films. It’s great.
But once you’ve done all of those activities, there’s not much else for entertainment. I mean, you can only explore the Fick Fossil Museum so many times. Which is why, one Saturday, we stopped at an estate sale in progress.
We wandered through the rooms of the house, perusing the green glassware and midcentury furniture. We found a few gems, including a pair of matching Christmas tablecloths with pom-pom fringe that we hope to use at some future tacky-themed holiday party.
But the real find was a file box with hundreds of neatly folded (and organized by holiday) pieces of wrapping paper from, I’m guessing, the ’50s to the ’80s.
“Megan,” my sister said, pointing to the box.
I audibly gasped when I saw it. I was unreasonably excited. So many colors and patterns. So many eras represented. There was prim and proper baby shower paper with storks and old-fashioned carriages, alongside birthday paper with peace signs in psychedelic colors. Father’s Day paper. President’s Day paper. One piece was made just for the Bicentennial.
Here was something for absolutely every occasion, with the added kitsch and character that you get from vintage items.
I love parties, holidays, all the celebrations of life. I enjoy taking time to mark milestones with loved ones and making them feel special on their birthdays. I think it’s a way of counting one’s blessings and showing love.
There’s nothing more satisfying to me than finding just the right present and trying to wrap it impressively, which often makes the gift inside seem better than it would by itself.
I also happen to love printed things and history, and the way trends for fonts and images change over time.
That box of wrapping paper was meant for me.
I heaved up the box, which bore a price tag of $2, and headed for the checkout.
Estate sales are kind of strange. Often you’re in the home of someone who has died, picking through their belongings, and on one hand it can feel kind of sad. But here was something left by someone who obviously enjoyed holidays and gift-giving as much as I do. This box was meant for me.
Even though I don’t know the woman who invested in so much wrapping paper and apparently kept it meticulously organized for decades, I’m certain we have some things in common — such as the penchant for giving gifts on third-tier holidays like President’s Day.
I think she would have been glad all that paper went to someone who would appreciate it. And that’s not sad at all.