Holidays also bring hassles

Sunday, December 7, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s the little things in life that cause the most consternation. I have spent the last week putting up Christmas decorations and wrapping gifts, but I have had to overcome manufacturing obstacles.

In this day and age we can clone a pig, but no one has invented the perfect ornament hook. These malleable silver (and now gold) lengths of metal come in two sizes — long and short. The long ones are the easiest to find. As a matter of fact, I spent one whole afternoon looking for some short ones. They are an inexpensive way to attach ornaments to a tree, but first I have to deal with getting them out of the box. Some machine placed them neatly in the package, but I have to tear the cardboard away from the plastic and, once opened, the hooks don’t just spill out of the container. They become a ball of intertwined metal. I end up grabbing the pile and shaking it, which means, of course, that several hooks become dislodged and go flying across the room to become embedded into the carpet only to be found by bare feet or a vacuum cleaner. The short hooks are the best (that’s why I can’t find them in the store) and the long ones are a nuisance. Most ornaments come with a string attached, but I need a hook to place the decoration in the exact spot on the tree. Once the hook is attached, the ornament hangs 4 inches below the branch and is obscured by pine needles. I end up bending the hook around the branch to take up the slack. This method is very time-consuming and sometimes not very pretty with all that metal wrapped around the limb.

I guess I should be thankful for the things I don’t have to worry about anymore. Tinsel tops my list of yucky holiday traditions that no longer linger on my Christmas tree. In the old days, we put the hideous silver strands on our tree to give it the “look” of icicles. And like its cousin the metal hook, tinsel is a mess to work with. I remember my mother telling us that we were to take one strand at a time and place it on the tree. That’s very difficult for pudgy little hands when the strands are all clumped together. When she turned her back, we would take a handful, step back from the tree and throw it as hard as possible, hoping the speed of the hurl would somehow separate the strands. The result, of course, was globs of tinsel splattered here and there. It also halted the tree trimming, with Mother sending us out of the room to finish the tree herself, which was the idea.

I also don’t have to deal with spun glass, which the product spinners lovingly labeled angel hair. But one modern-day change has become a source of real aggravation. In the old days (real old) many of the stores would wrap your gifts for free!

I know there are at least 10 places in town (most of which are downtown) that continue the wonderful tradition of wrapping the gift for you. But sadly, with 14 grandchildren, none of these stores sell toys.

The big retail companies finally realized that free wrapping was not cost-effective, so they started giving customers a box with their purchase and you could go home and wrap it yourself. Lately, they have made it tougher. Now I have to go to “customer service” and wait in line for a box. When it’s my turn, I ask for a box for each item in my bag (even if I’m putting two or three in one box.) Maybe if they put them back at the checkout counters, I wouldn’t cheat.

No matter how many extra boxes I gather, I never have enough, so my next option is buying them. Sometimes I’m forced to pay up to a dollar a box. And most stores offer sets, which are six boxes in three basic sizes. The problem is I never use the smallest size, which is only good for a hanky or small picture frame. And I have a closet filled with this size that I have collected over the past 20 years. Many of the gifts I have purchased are not the shape of any of the three. I need boxes that are oblong and deep (for things like stuffed animals and dolls.) I hate wrapping presents without a box because my grandkids can tell in the package by its shape and that spoils the surprise.

Now let’s tackle the tissue issue. I buy white tissue paper in a huge bundle. Please tell me why someone hasn’t come up with the idea of a tissue box similar to Kleenex where you can remove one sheet and up pops another. And am I asking too much to have the tissue come in different sizes?

Now that I have these holiday peeves out in the open, I think I’ll be able to enjoy the season. But if any of you inventor types are looking for a project to make the big bucks, I hope I’ve given you inspiration.

If you have a comment or think I can’t possibly write about any more petty complaints, please e-mail me at

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