Donna Tavano: Happy Bubble Wrap Month

The Elf on the Shelf has returned to wherever imaginary illusions retire for another year, and we are getting a crack at a do-over (differently) in 2021. His departure leaves a void, as his dust-bathing in the flour bin and fan- spinning adventures briefly distracted us from the daunting concerns of the day. The New Year’s baby cannot get us out of this muck, he’s just a kid! As January yawns its dreary winter before us, who, or what, will take up the slack…Word has it there is something else afoot, it’s free, available almost everywhere, and is infectious.

If you guessed the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re only partly right. This rare and precious commodity everybody wants but some will not take is hope. Accepting it costs nothing, but taking it means everything. To possess hope is to acknowledge there is more good than bad in this world. Owning it, allows its host to believe in a future. Believing in hope means knowing things can, and will, change. Hope invites us to appreciate the smallest of successes. It gets us by.

Even with hope, how do we not feel overwhelmed? Consider the honeybee. In its entire life, it makes no more than half a teaspoon of honey. It works because there are 20,000 to 60,000 bees in the colony working together. If it is stored properly, the honey they make heals and will last indefinitely.

Hope allows us to be grateful for something. It is hard to see clearly through these difficult times. If you wear glasses, be glad you didn’t live in the 1200s. They held up glass the size of a mirror to see better – exhausting, ineffective and very breakable. Finally, the Italians made the magnifiers tiny enough to wear on their nose, see?

Here’s a hopeful, slightly horrifying history snippet for women still on the rocky journey to equality. In the 1600s, women who spoke “libelously” were forced to wear “branks” or a “scold’s bridle,” a metal muzzle. And we’ve also heard of the other locked up body parts to which women were once subjected. One can easily see how women could be from Venus and men from Mars. The point is, through hope, hard work and sacrifice, circumstances can, and will, change, getting women to where we should have been all along.

Over the years, so many scientists and inventors kept their hopes alive despite failures and setbacks. In 1849, Walter Hunt, musing over his debts, played around with a bit of wire, realized its coil clasping potential, and patented the safety pin. Remember the Monkees' Mike Nesmith? In 1951, his mom Betty was a bank secretary, using white paint to cover her typos. She perfected the formula and tried to sell it to IBM. They said no, but she continued to self-market it as Liquid Paper until 1979, when Gillette Corporation bought it for over $47 million.

Hope is alive today in the scientists developing the COVID-19 vaccine, cures for many diseases, blood tests to predict preemies, ways to capture carbon dioxide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ways to package foods so the packaging material will turn color if it expires.

The last Monday in January is Bubble Wrap Day – who knew? In 1957, two guys attempting to create a textured wallpaper, glued two shower curtains together. It didn’t work, so they tried to sell it as insulation for greenhouses, another no go. But in 1960, IBM used it to wrap data processors they were shipping, and voila, our beloved bubble wrap was born! We can insulate windows and pipes with it, lay it down under tents to protect against moisture, protect our windshields from frost and snow, but surveys show, other than for packing, we love it for stress relief. One minute of popping the air sacs equals the relaxation of a half hour massage. You can even go online to pop virtually.

Maybe it’s not so farfetched after all to call January Bubble Wrap month. We cocoon ourselves inside, bubble wrap our plants outside, and seek to reduce stress anyway we can. Go grab some hope, freely available and infectious (in a good way) and bubble wrap, and before you know it, you’ll have popped yourself into February. We’ll deal with that then!