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RONDA RICH: A package should be pretty

The renowned bow maker in my hometown died. Only in the South would this probably be news because we Southern women do admire a package well-wrapped.

At 85, Miss Betty was still holding 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 a work of art. Whenever I got 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 the department stores and boutiques to go en mass and buy 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 the china, took it to the register and said, as I had always said in the past, “Would you wrap this please?”

“We don’t wrap here any longer,” she 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 want a pretty package.” I left, took myself to the drugstore 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 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.” She beamed. “Is there a secret to it?”

“Why no!” she exclaimed. “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 yanked off several yards then she 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!”

What an angel. Then and now.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter. Contact her at southswomen@bellsouth.net.