The renowned bow-maker in my hometown died. Only in the South would this probably be news, because we Southern women do admire a well-wrapped package.
At 85, Miss Betty still held court at the drug store, where she took great pride in her masterful skill of producing the most gorgeous packages. They were simply stunning. Well, they were more than that — they were works of art. Whenever I received a gift she had wrapped, I would smile and say, “I know where this came from.”
My godmother, Mary Nell, is a good bow-maker herself and even she had to admit that Miss Betty was close to impossible to beat. The bows were enormous and fluffy, covering the box completely. They were so beautiful that I would always think and usually say, “Do I have to open it? Could I just keep it to admire?”
Now, you know the wrapping and bows had to be special for people to forsake department stores and boutiques to go en masse and buy presents at a drug store. Yes, it is an independent drug store, and yes, it has a lovely gift department, but usually people want to go more upscale to buy a special gift.
One day, I was shopping at a local department store for a wedding gift. I picked out some china, took it to the register and asked, as I always had in the past, “Would you wrap this please?”
“We don’t wrap here any longer,” the clerk replied, referring to the china department. “If you want it wrapped, you have to take it to the office, and all they have is a standard plain wrap.”
That meant ugly paper with the store’s name monogrammed on it.
I smiled and handed the china back to her. “No, thank you,” I said. “I want a pretty package.”
I left, took myself to the drug store and bought a crystal candy dish, which Miss Betty proceeded to wrap up beautifully.
Though Mama always said, “Pretty is as pretty does” and made an emphatic point of it to her freckle-faced, somewhat plain little girl, she also believed in “appearances.” Even when our clothes were home-made and nothing fancy, we fixed up the best we could to look pretty. That’s why I think a package should be pretty.
My sister, Louise, makes gorgeous bows. I’ve seen her make bows that were 2 feet wide. When pressed into action, I can make them, too. It’s all in the wrist, you know. At least on one hand. With the other, it comes down to how long you can pinch the ribbon between the forefinger and thumb as you’re twirling with the other. And you cannot be stingy with the ribbon if you’re going to make a truly stellar bow. This is the hard part for me, being a frugal Scotch-Irish. I want to cut corners a bit.
One day, Miss Betty was wrapping a package for me and I said, “You make such gorgeous bows. Is there a secret to it?”
She beamed and exclaimed, “Why, no! It’s the easiest thing in the world. Let me show you.”
She walked to the rolls of paper.
“First, you pick the wrap. Then you pick a colorful bow to go with it.”
She looked at all the spools and decided on a bright kelly green to complement the blue wrap.
“Now, you have to get a lot of ribbon. That’s what makes a pretty bow,” she said.
Miss Betty yanked off several yards then proceeded to make a bow in a way I had never seen. She folded the ribbon back and forth — no wrist action required — making the fold about 7 inches long. When she finished, she cut a notch on either side in the middle of the bow. She tied floral wire there then spread out the bow.
“See how easy!” she said
What an angel. Then and now.
Rich is the author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.