Duct Tape & Tin Foil: A Christmas Tradition

It sat there--the final gift under the Christmas tree.  A huge box wrapped in shiny green paper that came up to my hip and much to my excitement had my name on it.  As I reached down to pick it up I was stunned at the heaviness of it. Reading the tag I saw that it was a gift from my grandmother. I remember looking over to her and seeing her smirk. She looked pretty proud of herself. Getting excited I plopped right down on the floor and got ready to open it.

The Old Bat (that’s what we affectionately called her) told me to wait. She had something to say.  She got up from the couch and walked over to me. Putting her hand on my shoulder she looked down at me “Remember that anything in life that is important-- you have to work for” she said. “Sometimes the things you have to really put an effort into reap the most reward”. I remember ribbing her a little about being so deep on Christmas morning. Looking me square in the eye she chuckled and patted me on the head.  Once she was back on the couch and had her camera ready I reached for the present. Shocked again at how heavy it was I pulled at the tape on the side and grabbed a chunk of paper.  With a dramatic flourish I tore off the shiny paper!  What the hell was this? I remember thinking to myself, as I pulled off the remaining paper. 

 The entire box was covered in miles and miles of—Duct Tape. 


 12 rolls to be exact. With no end in sight to pull on I was temporarily flummoxed. What the hell? Who wraps a present in duct tape? Her childish laughter gave me my answer, she did. She stood up and proclaimed that I was going to be a while and she needed a smoke, chuckling as she walked away. For the next 45 minutes I pulled, tore and swore as I made my way into this present. Finally I made it to cardboard. The End was in sight! Pulling the flaps of the box I look inside. 5 cans of peas, a bunch of large rocks, a fire starter log and about a whole role of paper towels… What the hell?
“It's amazing what you can accomplish with a little imagination and a dozen rolls of duct tape” 

--J.V. Manning

I started removing it all and discover --Another box!  This one not only wrapped in duct tape but tin foil too! Tin Foil and Duct Tape!?! The smaller box was slightly easier to get into. As I pulled the flaps open I found… 3 cans of carrots, 2 cans of corn and a can of chicken soup. Seriously? At the very bottom of the box was a small white jewelry box.

 My heart stopped. Immediately I knew what it was. Tears sprang to my eyes as I pulled it out and opened it.  Nestled inside of the box was my great grandmother’s watch.  A watch she had worn for years and had passed on to my grandmother. This watch was not worth a lot of money, nor was it particularly fashionable but it represented the two most important women in my life.   


I sighed as I looked around the living room at the mountains of duct tape, tin foil, canned vegetables, rocks and paper towels.  The watch weighed all of 4 ounces and fit into a box about 3 inches long and 2 inches deep. My grandmother looked very proud of herself. 

A tradition was born. 

From that Christmas forward no one was safe. There would always be at least one present wrapped in rolls and rolls of duct tape and a half a roll of tin foil.  

Two stand out in my mind the most.  

One year my sister bought her husband a 42” flat screen TV. She, my grandmother and my 7 year old step son spent 4 hours wrapping it in duct tape, the Sunday comics and tin foil. 8 rolls of duct tape went onto that one and took him almost an hour and a half to get into it.  Another time was a few years back—I had found a one of a kind autographed baseball for my husband.  This ball had been a treasured keepsake of one of the Groundskeepers at Fenway Park in Boston. He had over a span of 30 years, gotten over 25 autographs of his favorite Red Sox players. Starting in the 1920’s and going to the 1950’s. Big names in baseball like- Williams & Yastrzemski to name a couple. Took me over 2 hours and 4 boxes, 4 cans of spaghetti sauce, a couple of rocks, 4 rolls of duct tape, 1 roll of tin foil and 2 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper to get it done. 

Every time I get excited about a gift I have found for a loved one my grandmother’s words echo in my ears—“Remember that anything in life that is important-- you have to work for”. She’s gone now but her memory is as strong as the duct tape and a shiny as the tin foil I wrap around these presents. Sometimes I swear I can hear her chuckle. 

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