I’ve been thinking all week about the happy memories of Christmases of years ago. I find this time of year makes me feel connected to both the magic and the melancholy of the season. I am so grateful that I still have the childlike excitement for the holidays, but I also find myself thinking of the people I love who are no longer here to celebrate with us.
I don’t shy away from the feeling of melancholy. I understand it connects me to the valuable lessons that loss can teach me. It is okay to sit with it for a while, and then take those lessons and integrate them into my life.
One happy memory that bubbled up made me think about Duct Tape.
When my son Brendan was younger, he discovered tape, and life was good. He loved the stuff. He would tape things down, tape things up, attach them to a wall, reinforce his bike, add decorative elements to his wardrobe, and sometimes secure a family member in place to assure he had our undivided attention. There was not an activity or part of his life that could not be made better with tape. He liked Scotch tape, paper tape, and medical tape, but generally preferred Duct Tape for its durability and strength. It created options for creation that tapes of lesser strength could not offer.
I will be honest, we would hide tape. We kept secret stashes of the sticky stuff to preserve for things like packages and general household needs. And he would always find it. He had this internal radar for the stuff. So, when I would be frantically looking for tape to wrap a birthday present for a party that started in ten minutes, I would be left with the leftovers. A sliver of packing tape, duct tape…I once even used a glue stick, and then slowly watched the package unwrap itself as it sat on the gift table.
So, with this obsession, it is no wonder that tape was woven into the very fabric of our Christmas. On Christmas morning, I remember him running towards me with his creation from beneath the tree. It was a mass of silver duct tape and paper. Red hearts adorned the tape, with one word scrawled on the side. “Mom.” When I saw the hearts, I figured out where those red marks on my kitchen table came from, smiling to myself at this boy. So full of life. So obsessed with tape.
“Open it,” he said with enthusiasm. Easier said than done, I thought to myself. He had about half a roll of the silver stuff wrapped around whatever was inside. And honestly, I was pretty sure that the contents contained more tape. But the look on his face was so filled with love and anticipation.
I tried with my fingers to open it in some way. I tugged with both hands. At one point, I think I may have gnawed at the package with my teeth. The kitchen scissors finally did the job, opening up his careful wrapping to reveal a simple drawing of he and I, with the words, “I love Mom” at the bottom of the page. My heart swelled, and I hugged him tightly. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received. Not only did he give me unconditional love, he surrounded it with a protective covering that a Navy Seal Team would have difficulty breaching.
So, what did he teach me? Here’s just a few things:
Outer Packaging Does Not Indicate Inner Treasures:
The packaging on my gift was quite a sight. It held no clue that within the crumpled ball of tape would be a treasure I would cherish for the rest of my life.
Sometimes, life presents us with packages that are not pretty. In fact, sometimes life delivers packages that we would just as soon return to sender. The packages can come in the form of people, or life circumstances. But, even when it doesn’t look good, even if the package brings heartache or hurt, the gift within may change your life’s direction forever. I have had people and circumstances present themselves in my life that, at first glance, I would have described as terrible. But now, looking at them with the perspective of time and love, see they were wonderful teachers preparing me for the next leg of my journey. So, don’t be afraid to look inside. The contents could be wondrous and life changing.
Fortify What is Important
Just as Brendan took time and effort to ensure the safety of his drawing, we must also protect what is important in our lives. I’m not just talking about home security or locking the car doors. I am talking about the foundation of our daily lives. Family, Love, Peace, Faith, and Forgiveness.
Wrap Your Gifts Carefully, But Give Them Away With Enthusiasm
Brendan did this wonderful dance as he presented the gift to me that day. I can still see his grin, his excitement. He created love, and he wanted to give it away. That is the beauty of a child. They understand the purpose of being here. He understood he did not have to hold back his love, there was plenty to go around.
As we age, we complicate things. We make mistakes, we get hurt, we lose, we lose some more, we get angry, or bitter. We hide our gifts and talents for fear of ridicule, we step back instead of forward.
We forget the reason we are here.
We are here to create more love and give it away.
I am not sure I understood all of this on that Christmas morning many moons ago. But years later, we have journeyed through so much, and the truth about duct tape and life is something our family lives every single day.
Brendan is now a teenager, and before you know it, he will be off to college. I still have balls of tape all over my house, only now, it’s hockey tape. Before a game, he sits and meticulously tapes his goalie sticks, strengthening his gear before playing his hardest.
So there you have it. Life according to Duct Tape. It really can be used for anything.