We played with the boxes first, for a whole week, well before we tore them open to see what was inside.
I'm all in for recycling, but one of the things we lose when we rush too quickly to toss them in the bin is all that value to be wrung from them before sending them to be remanufactured. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" is the mantra, to which I add, "in that order," to emphasize it refers to a process, not an either-or proposition.
I used to ask the Woodland Park families to save all their packaging and bring it into the school for the New Year. My idea was to make a huge mound of the stuff, to play with of course, but also to illustrate the mountains of waste we each create, but no one ever brought anything. Most only remembered after they'd already disposed of it.
So this is my own refuse collection. I like how children play with the boxes and bows, and they always do unless they're given something with a screen on it, or that puts them in front of a screen, then they just park it on a sofa with eyes still aglow, but as a flickering reflection instead of a light that comes from within. Nothing convinces me more of the narcotizing effects of screens than to see holiday packaging heaped in idle piles as glassy-eyed children "play" with their thumbs. It's just not natural.
If you call it "messy," I'm sorry, you're a humbug, at least for the next few days. This is the real wonderland of the holidays.
It's good to have a grandpa around. He'll tell you that messes come and messes go, but in the big scheme of things most of us will be able to count on one hand the times in our lives we got to play like this, and even then we had to hurry because of the grown-ups who circled like vultures, starving to tidy it up.
There's is magic in the aftermath, probably because there are no instructions to read or rules to follow, except the ones we always observe out of respect for our fellow humans. And until they give in to their fetish for order, the grown-ups tend to enjoy watching their children play according to their own designs and passions.
It's not too late to pull it out of the recycling bin and toss it back on the floor. There's still a lot of magic left in it.