I can’t remember if it was a babysitter or a Girl Scout who taught me how to make gum wrapper chains. I do remember my mother’s bewilderment when she found all of her gum robbed of wrappers and carelessly returned to her Mary Poppins-ish purse of treasures. I remember buying gum based on the colors of the wrappers instead of the flavors of the gum. I vividly remember my obscenely long gum wrapper chain not making the school, save or trash cut, when I first moved into a dorm.
Gum wrapper chains haven’t thrived over the years. Most gum is the wrong size to use and the gum that is sized correctly lacks a paper wrapper or has plain white wrappers glued together. More than that, people just don’t chew gum as much as they did in the past. Even if you do collect enough wrappers to get a chain going, it is one of those things that doesn’t seem to belong in any decor other than a summer camp bunkhouse.
Decades after putting my worn and loved gum wrapper chain in the trash, I finally found an excuse to make a new chain. Only, I didn’t use gum wrappers. I used cash.
Since Sarah moved into an apartment in Harlem with her friends instead of coming home during summer break, I spend most of my time worrying that she’s going to develop scurvy or rickets. It’s easier to worry about the absurd. For Sarah’s first birthday away from home, I didn’t want to send her stuff she doesn’t need in her bedroom that is the size of my bedroom closet. I did want to send money that she could use for something she wants or something she needs, like food. Preferably food that prevent scurvy and rickets. Sending a check didn’t satisfy my need to DO something for her birthday. Making a gum wrapper style chain with dollars ALMOST solved my gift giving dilemma. Decorating each dollar with quotes, sayings, lyrics and doodles was the ridiculous notion that became a plan.
After decorating the dollars, they were folded.
Pack the paper chain in a small box filled with balloons and sequins and you have a goofy birthday present for your own baby bird whose departure from the nest makes you cry, even though you could not be more proud.