This week will see us finishing up birthday season around our house, which – I’m not gonna lie – I am very excited about. For the first half of the year, we are hit pretty hard in the birthday department, with one in January, one in March, one in April and two in May. The next birthday coming up is mine, but it’s not until the fall, so I’m going to enjoy my break from making signs, blowing up balloons, wrapping presents and curating birthday feasts.
We have a tradition at our house that began by accident but has since become an absolutely essential part of every birthday (and Christmas). It started several years ago when Logan bought himself an Apple Watch, and I just couldn’t bear to throw away the sturdy and beautiful packaging. If you’ve ever opened an Apple product, you know what I’m talking about.
“I’m sure I’ll find a use for this finely crafted box,” I thought. “Maybe it could be a drawer organizer or something.” I caressed it one last time and then set it among the stack of old boxes I use for wrapping presents, sending packages and so forth.
A little while later, I was up late one night wrapping gifts for Henry’s birthday and was stumped as to how to unveil his biggest gift: a new scooter. I couldn’t exactly wrap it up and put it on the kitchen counter for him to find along with his other gifts in the morning. My eyes landed on the Apple Watch box: sturdy as ever and just the right size for a small piece of paper to be tucked inside. I wrote a little note, wrapped up the box and set it on the counter with the other presents.
Henry was ecstatic the next morning when he woke up and saw what he assumed was an Apple Watch sitting among his presents. He was practically foaming at the mouth by the time his party rolled around that evening, and he was finally able to tear open his presents.
Imagine his shock when he opened the box and found not an Apple Watch but instead a note that read: “Nope, not an Apple Watch! But check in the garage for your real present!” “Oh, man!” he said, a little disappointed but intrigued by the garage idea nonetheless. He ran to the garage with his siblings right behind him and was of course delighted by his new scooter.
Ever since then, the Apple Watch box has made an appearance at every birthday and Christmas. No longer just for things that are simply too big to wrap, we now include it just for tradition’s sake. Everyone knows to open the Apple Watch box last, as it usually leads to the final and most extravagant gift of the day.
Friends and grandparents who visit for birthdays are usually speechless at the sight of, say, our 7-year-old unwrapping what appears to be an Apple Watch. “Oh goodness,” I can imagine them thinking. “The Dittos are certainly being footloose and fancy free with their money this year!”
But they’re starting to understand the concept of the Apple Watch box. Even Grandma Gloria got in on the action one year, wrapping an old Apple Watch box of her own and stashing five tickets to a go-cart race track inside for one of our boys.
We celebrated George’s 17th birthday last week, and his “big” birthday gift was a pair of Apple AirPods. I felt a little silly wrapping the Apple Watch box when the actual gift it would lead him to was also an Apple product in a similarly sized box.
“Do we really need the Apple Watch box this time?” I asked Jane, whom I had recruited to help wrap a few presents before bed. “Yes!” she replied emphatically. “He’ll be so disappointed if he doesn’t see it sitting out with the rest of his presents.”
So, I wrapped the Apple Watch box. “Nope! Not an Apple Watch!” the note read, as it always does. “Check in Mom and Dad’s closet!” George led his siblings through the house to our closet, where, sitting on the throne of our laundry hamper, were his AirPods.
Who knows how long this tradition will go on. I’m guessing at my funeral, there will be an Apple Watch box with a note inside that says, “Nope, not an Apple Watch! But check the casket!”
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.