I spent last evening “undecorating” the house. As I worked on removing the garland and bows from the mantle, I realized that the bows were looking a bit wilted and should be replaced, but I couldn’t just throw them away. So I took them all apart and rolled up the ribbons to be used again.

As I was rolling them, each into its little nest, I remembered my mom and wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes She was the queen of recycling. As she often said, “I may be extravagant, but I’m never wasteful,” thanks to her Depression heritage. She had a big house in central Maine and was able to keep a large stash of boxes and ribbons in a closet in the upstairs hall.

I was always thrilled on Christmas morning to open a lovely sweater or skirt from a box that said “Neiman Marcus.” It was years before I realized that my mom was just recycling the box and the clothes really came from Freese’s in Bangor.

We had other signature boxes and ribbons when I grew up in Maine, and one of the famous ones was W.C. Bryant & Sons Jewelers on Main Street in Bangor. It was a lovely place that sold not only beautiful jewelry but also fine china, crystal and, of course, sterling silverware – everything that a young bride would want.

The first thing engaged girls would do in the ’50s and ’60s was to “register” at the jeweler for her china, crystal and silver patterns. Now brides and grooms use technology to register at stores like Macy’s and Pottery Barn for everything from dishes to furniture. Now you can go on couples’ websites and donate toward the honeymoon. Not when I grew up – but times were changing.

I was married in the early ’70s and by that time, setting a formal table for dinner was the last thing on my mind. My mother insisted, however, and so I dutifully joined her in Bangor at Bryant’s, looked at all the displays and chose patterns.

And then the packages started coming. They were always wrapped in heavy white flocked paper with a beautiful cream bow that had the small, gold Bryant crest on it. When you saw the paper and the bow, you knew that it was going to be a lovely gift.

We had a pretty big wedding, and there were quite a few gifts from Bryant’s. My mom could not stand to see all that paper being thrown out, so she carefully saved it, took it down cellar to the laundry, ironed it and put it in the big closet in the upstairs hall.

Next Christmas, many of the presents under the tree were wrapped in beautiful white paper. I’m sure my mom would have used the little gold crest if she could have gotten it off the ribbon in one piece.

So I recycled my bows, packed them away for next year and smiled – keeping a tradition alive.

filed under: