Torn Red Ribbon

I tore open the holiday gift basket (you know, the kind with assorted cheap toiletries from a drug store) in the usual manner. Using my teeth, a kitchen knife, all ten fingernails, I just wanted to rip into the thing for a bar of soap. I happened to be out of soap. Otherwise, I might never have opened it. I actually couldn’t believe it was still on my dresser, a month after Christmas, acting as a dust catcher. I didn’t throw it away, like I usually do with stuff that I almost want, but don’t. My life, after years of mindless shopping, was full of stuff. Stuff that I almost wanted, but didn’t. Stuff that I now could never throw away due to the recession my mother had warned me about when still alive and, must to my disgust, recycling her tea bags.

I thought about my mother and her coupon addiction as I jabbed a fork through the pink cellophane wrapping. I dug down for the soap, which was wrapped, like the basket, in a red ribbon with curly yellow tassels on the end. I pulled off the ribbon, grabbed the soap and was about to push all the wrapping into the wastebasket, but didn’t. I considered the red ribbon. It was cheap and filmy, slightly frayed where my teeth had hooked it. I saw a ribbon that might cost, new, about $3.50. My mother had always been right. I’d been wasteful in the past, ignoring the value of a dollar let alone a piece of ribbon.

I decided to save the ribbon, but where? Where, exactly, do you stash a used, torn ribbon so that you’ll find it in a few years, when you need a ribbon? We haven’t cared, have we? We could easily buy all the ribbon we needed, at CVS, 24 hours a day, in every city and town in the United States. The ribbon sat there on the shelves, all year, beautiful and neglected and begging to be bought and used. Most of the time we walk by ribbon on the way to the toothpaste or toilet paper. We know it’s there whenever we need it. We don’t panic about ribbon.

After years of throwing away stuff from abandoned apartments, stuff that I couldn’t bear moving again- to a new state, country, job, boyfriend, wherever I was headed – stuff that went into a big black garbage bag; torn, broken, tired, shrunken, ripped, or perfectly good stuff that I was sick of, I was at a loss. What to do with the ribbon? The world moved fast, and if I was going to keep up, I couldn’t drag around shoeboxes of string, wire, ribbon, rubber bands. Or could I? I tied the ribbon around a flower vase.

I will save ribbon from this day forward. I can feel it. Every object in my life has been imbued with a new value. In years to come, I will never look at a ribbon or any object the same way again, money or no money. Value has attached itself to everything I own, no matter its condition. Tonight, I almost swept a stray pitted olive, left out overnight, in the garbage disposal. I washed it off and popped it in my mouth. It tasted better than ever.

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