Recycling the Christmas Spirit

It is usually met with a combination of mystification, confusion and bemusement by adults when, on Christmas morning, one of the children spurns the bright, shiny toy and begins to happily play with the box that contained the toy.  It is usually the youngest child of the family that keeps up this tradition until at some point they come to that ‘age of reason’. They realize that they may hurt the adults’ feelings if they don’t prefer the bright, shiny toy. Children, generally kindly and mostly carefully brought up to show interest in gifts as gratitude, then give up the happy hours of box play.

Isn’t this interesting? Adults often complain how children just don’t seem to use their imagination any more in their games and are glued to the electronic, all buzzing, all blipping, screen flashing sort of toy instead. Yet in the post-war austerity years my mother noted that in 1950 my brother and sister had one toy each – a tin horn and a drum, at my sister’s insistence to Santa Claus. Mercifully for my parents’ ears, they also loved the boxes.

Last Christmas a friend gave me a lovely set of organic shower gel and bath accessories in a wooden box. The box was lidless and when I had put the lovely toiletries into the bathroom I sat there admiring it.

I’m a keen recycler and advocate of sustainable living.  I could have tossed the wooden box into the wood stove and used it for kindling. But somewhere inside my inner toddler stirred. I wanted to have fun with my Christmas box again.

Now I am no painter and can’t draw, but I like collage and this box just seemed to say to me, “Decoupage!” And so, over the weeks I collected some images from newspapers and magazines. I found an artificial flower that had garnished a gift parcel. A plastic scorpion fell out of a cereal packet. The project was taking on a 3-D effect.
Suddenly, some of these ‘useless’ items got a chance at a second life.

I had a lot of fun one snowy Saturday afternoon with scissors, a bottle of PVA glue and some super glue. From my culled clippings the images began to suggest a theme. I got busy and when I was finished it struck me that my ‘artwork’ was perfect for being wall mounted.  I look at that piece of recycling art every day and it reminds me of how being ‘childlike’ is good for the soul. I’m really glad I didn’t do the practical thing and put the box into the stove.

When you clean up on Christmas morning, keep an eye out for how the ‘rubbish’ might actually have a more creative second life in some art project. Your children may want to use the packing popcorn to make a snowman scene for the table. If relatives are raising your hackles, grab the bubble wrap, jump in the closet and revel in your own do-it-yourself executive stress reliever.

Also, let the adults have some fun with the boxes. It’s great to be a kid again, especially at this time of year.

About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.

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