My parents dutifully videotaped my first few years of opening Christmas presents. Only a few minutes into the tape and it’s obvious: like most little ones, I was far more enamored with the outside than the inside.
The bow, the box, the wrapping paper, the tape, the tag . . . all fantastic. And my parents, like most, encouraged me to play with what was actually inside the box. You know, the gift itself. But that shiny paper and that sparkly bow and that huge cardboard box? Little extras that set Christmas apart from an ordinary holiday. Just way too fun to breeze past the unwrapping.
The same phenomenon happens on college visits. When the parades of high school students parade on campus behind a school-color-clad tour guide, maybe a few are thinking about the academics. But many are thinking environment. Packaging. How does it look? How’s the gym? How are the dorms? Even though the purpose of college is to leave with a degree, it’s often the bells and whistles that separate one university from another. And exploring and unwrapping this packaging — these little special touches — can make it a rich and fantastic four years.
And succumbing to packaging happens every time I find myself in the wine aisle. I know what I like, but when it’s time to try something new? Packaging, packaging, packaging. A well-designed bottle or label gets me every single time. (Don’t even get me started on the challenges a wine shop presents. The advertisers are winning, friends.) It’s the packaging. It’s the joy of opening the seal and uncorking the bottle that is so much a part of drinking wine.
When I moved about a year ago, I was hungry for community and eager for friendships. Relationships, simply put, are important to me. I wanted to just get through the transition already. I wanted to run across the friendship bridges before they were built and love people before I even knew their names. But really, though, in finding friends to love, I wish I would have considered how fun it is to get to know them. I wish I hadn’t rushed in unwrapping.
Even with the oldest of friends, we’re still getting to know each other. We’re still unwrapping. And I ought to treasure that unwrapping more than I do. Learning idiosyncrasies, understanding personalities, asking about favorite colors and snacks and TV shows and music. It’s all so fun and can be so meaningful to friendships. Meaningful, that is, when we don’t rush ourselves through it.
Marriage, friends, has not been easy. Mr. S. and I face our share of obstacles in our relationships: some very unique and others very common. Our marriage is not perfect and neither is anyone’s. And instead of wishing away the problems and craving perfect-perfect-perfect, I am disregarding the joy that unwrapping this relationship can be. Learning and growing and unwrapping and sometimes struggling . . . how different our marriage might look if I took the time to celebrate that wrapping paper.
Because really, do we ever yell angrily, gift in hand, at the one who wrapped it because the tape was too sticky or the box was too big or the paper was too thick? Nope. We would never do that. Because it’s a gift, wrapped because it matters.
Unwrapping love is a journey and we owe it to ourselves to make it a good one.