Friday, December 26, 2003

The Egg Carton

When I was seven, my aunt MaryAnn got married. Now this was a big event in the life of a seven year old, not only because my beloved auntie would now love another, but because our little family was suddenly enlarged. Since my grandparents were first generation, the family had not yet expanded to its present mob-like proportions. Any addition was a big thing.

Multiply all that newness by 100, because my Uncle Naren is Indian and we couldn't always understand what he was saying. And he was a lot more formal than our silly Dad.

It was the first Christmas for the family plus one. I had made gifts for everyone. My dad got an empty frozen juice container covered with orange construction paper -- a pencil holder. My mom got a paper weight with my hand print made at school. My grandparents a pot holder.

But what to do for my uncle? I knew it had to be very good, since he had a lot of nice things already.

I decided to make him a desk organizer out of an empty egg carton. I would paint it bright green. I would fill each egg hole with shiny paper clips and new rubber bands and cheerfully mark their place with individual flags made out of tooth picks.

I wrapped up my creation with festive paper and a bow. And waited for him to open it up.

On Christmas Eve, when we opened our gifts, I handed my uncle my masterpiece. He slowly ripped off the paper and stared at his gift without understanding. It was at that moment that I realized that I hadn't actually painted the carton or filled it with supplies or made the flags. I had just imagined that I did it.

It was at that moment that I realized that it was just an egg carton. Grade A extra large. Blue styrofoam with a little shell still attached.

My gift giving skills have improved much since that sad Christmas in the 70s. Now I have a little money to spend on presents. I don't have to transform my mom's cooking castoffs into office supplies. My Uncle continues to prove a challenge at Christmas, though we have learned that the key to his heart is an excellent cognac. At the same time, I wish that I could please others with a thoughtfully decorated egg carton and an overactive imagination. How much simpler would life be?

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