Father’s Day reflections: Paper — or gold?

The grandparents during their anniversary party.

I consulted the little Hallmark booklet, given free with each and every purchase by the stationery store. Hallmark’s pamphlets listed gift suggestions, by the month, the birthstones, flowers and other paraphernalia. This particular booklet’s pages included a list of appropriate items for wedding anniversary gifts.

Aided by this resource, I decided on an awesome gift for my grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. A mash-up of first and 50th anniversary gifts, inspired by card games from the past…toilet paper. Not just the standard issue, that wouldn’t do. But 50 packages of toilet paper and it had to be goldcolored toilet paper, well that fit the bill.

 My dad joined me in this endeavor, up for an excuse to partner with his daughter, and play along in the joke on his parents.

A little history: My grandparents survived the Great Depression with frugal habits. Items like fancy soaps or embossed four-ply toilet paper were considered luxury items and not in the household budget of practical Midwestern farmers. Grandpa eked out a living on rented farmland, and Grandma sold the hand-churned butter from the dairy herd she tended.

Future years yielded a proud day when Grandpa held title on the fields he plowed, and the cattle in the barn were their own livestock. Grandma’s collection of wooden butter paddles decorated the kitchen wall of the modest brick home they built on their property.

Social activities were low-cost affairs. Indiana folks played horse shoes, pulled taffy and played cards. Hors d’oeuvres were catered in the kitchens of farm wives. Attendees brought along card tables and chairs required to have seats for the games.

As a small child I was allowed to watch the foursomes in my grandparent’s living room. Later, matured in my card skills, I was allowed to sit in for a round when one of the players needed a break. Euchre was the preferred game. Contract Bridge and other fancy card play were eschewed by the down-to-earth farm folk.

Prizes were awarded at the end of the evening’s festivities, but frugality still reigned and a nicely wrapped package of toilet paper came into play as a gag prize.

My grandparents and their peers dwelled in the after-the-kids-left-home phase of life. They could certainly afford the luxury of soft cotton squares rolled around a cardboard spindle that replaced the thin paper pages torn from the Sears and Roebuck catalogues.

Toilet paper prizes were wrapped in fancy gift paper, tied with pretty ribbons and presented with great ceremony to the table with the highest score. Even though they knew what the elaborately wrapped packaged contained, the winners fussed over their prizes.

Observing this ritual over the years planted the seeds in my teenage mind — the perfect gift for my grandparents on their Golden Anniversary would be a box filled with 50 packages of gold-colored luxury brand toilet paper.

A big party was planned. I knew many of their card-playing friends would be at this celebration. I hoped they’d appreciate the humor in my “gift.”

What I didn’t figure on was how to find the necessary quantity of toilet paper and in gold colors. Dad gave me sage advice. He suggested that I scale the project back to 50 rolls, rather than 50 packages of fancy toilet tissue.

We lived in a middle-sized Midwestern town so had several grocery stores. Dad thought my idea was a fun joke on his parents, so he agreed to help me procure the product for our prize present.

My parental partner in crime drove me from store to store, as we depleted the shelves of golden-hued bathroom tissue. Still a few rolls short of the desired 50, we made do with some fancy gold filigree-designed paper on a white background.

One of the stores had just unpacked a case of goods and the box was big enough to hold the 50 rolls that completed our gift.

 Took three packages of gift wrap, a whole roll of Scotch tape and a large spool of ribbon to wrap up our present. Step Mom was impressed by our effort.

We arrived at the party carting our large box. Placed with a grand ceremony on the table beside the cake and punch bowl, it dwarfed the other gifts and cards.

On pins and needles I waited for the moment my grandparents opened our present. I think Dad was as anxious as I to see the expressions on my grandparents’ faces when they opened the enormous gold-papered box.

The gift had its expected effect. Grandma and Grandpa both had big smiles on their faces. They each hoisted a roll and posed for photographs with their golden paper booty.

One of the party guests, a regular attendee at my grandparents’ card parties, hooted with glee. “Well, I guess I know what to expect for prizes at Euchre parties, and for quite some time!”

— By Kathy Passage

Edmonds resident and former restaurant writer Kathy Passage occasionally submits essays for our publications.


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