Heaven help me, I am turning into my mother - the Box Queen.

It's something you pray will never happen to you. For as long as I can remember, she has stood at an elbow while a package is being unwrapped. When the contents are held up, the box never touches the floor. Mother has it squirreled away in a closet somewhere.Throughout the years, she has become the mecca of cardboard - a one-woman recycling center. If you are giving anyone a hard-to-wrap chain saw, she has the box for it. If you have an oversize velvet Elvis painting, she can put it under wrap for you. Nothing is too big or too small for her to match up with a box.

We learned early that Christmas packages were never what they appeared to be. A rectal thermometer box always gave a recipient pause until it revealed a fountain pen inside. A small jewelry box with the promise of a drop-dead diamond held a fishing fly.

Mother tolerates Christmas, but what really brings a smile to her lips is the class of boxes that are distributed. We added a new relative to the family one year who put a Tiffany box under the tree. Mother could barely contain herself. We were to see that Tiffany box every Christmas for the next 10 years. Once it held a bird feeder, another time a smoke alarm, and last year, a beach towel.

I was reluctant to admit I was turning into a box junkie when my daughter pointed it out to me at her birthday celebration last June. I found myself in a tug-of-war with my mother over a Nordstrom box. She said it was hers originally, and I said she had never stepped foot in a Nordstrom store in her life and it was mine.

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My daughter intervened at that moment and asked if we would mind postponing this argument until after she opened the box.

She said I needed help, but believe you me when I tell you that I am nowhere near the fanatic about saving boxes that my mother is. Her closets and storage spaces hold nothing but boxes inside of boxes. I'm not THAT far gone.

I was ironing the other afternoon when Mom dropped by. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm ironing old tissue paper and used ribbons. See? They're like new."

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