Family Chronicles: Expressions of Love

By Carla Atwood Hartman

Receiving a gift was a delight—the surprise of the delivery and the anticipation of the opening—addressed like no other package—unusual spacing with looping cursive, symbols, embellishments, color, sometimes cut-out forms, drawings and/or stickers. Stamps often placed in different denominations in patterns.

Ray’s gifts to family and friends were unlike any that most have ever seen. I can still imagine Ray with great glee, twinkling eyes, and trilling laughter enjoying the process and imagining the recipient’s delight. Her gifts were designed to startle—to convey the warmth and love held by the giver.

Present opening was a layered affair: each reveal involving a different paper (whether metallic, tissue, matte; patterned or solid; pastels or richly colored).  Each layer held other surprises—a cut-out silver heart, messages of love, an unusual ribbon . . .  Ray created an experience; it was about the twists and turns of an unexpected journey with the destination (the present) less important than the whole. Her gifts were expressions of love: with each unwrapping of a layer, bursts of joy sparkled.

Long after her passing, I kept one present unopened— delighting, once again, in the anticipation, in the unknown. To illustrate Ray’s unparalleled gift wrapping, I have brought this small package with me for lectures and held up the tantalizing treat.

Many have expressed disbelief that it remains unopened; and even a museum professional suggested that I get it x-rayed. Somehow the spirit of Ray remains in the unopened package.