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Why toilet paper was the best thing I got for Christmas this year

When I was little, about once a month the most glorious package would arrive at our house. It was from a far-off land called Brooklyn, sent by one of the most magical women on Earth, my Grandma. The excitement was so high that we were required to wait for every member of the family to get home before digging in.

The package would contain little treats or toys for my sister and me, but to get to them we had to sift through all kinds of boring stuff intended for my parents. Toilet paper. Napkins. Paper towels. Cans of tuna fish (not kidding). My mom would be just as excited to receive the package of paper plates as we were about the M&Ms. I didn’t understand her preoccupation with those seemingly boring items at the time, maybe because it just meant more candy for me. Well, I understand it now.

Since moving into my new apartment just over a year ago, I have become very familiar with this truth: Stuff is expensive. Now I know this is neither new, nor is it news, but seriously. To be considered a real live grown-up one must keep certain things on hand, and the amount of money it takes to keep a home stocked with the necessities is dizzying. We tend to take for granted the everyday things that are always around until you head to the cabinet to restock the toilet paper and you’re down to your last roll. And I hate buying toilet paper.

This brings me to the best gift I received on Christmas morning this year: my sister channeled our Grandma Vivian and gave me a “Gift of Necessity,” a care package of epic proportions. Its contents spanned three separate packages and included the aforementioned toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, cotton balls, razors, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair pins, mascara, a nail file, a grocery tote and four mini bottles of Jim Beam (not essential, I know, but still much appreciated; like a grown-up version of the M&Ms).

She wrapped each item individually and my excitement at opening them bordered on madness. Picture something along the lines of an episode of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” The saying goes that it’s the little things that matter most, and that definitely applies to this gift. I don’t have to worry about running out of those staple items found in every household for the next six months, and she has a blast picking out what goes into the package. It’s obvious how much thought she puts into picking out what I’ll like and use the most and that makes the gift all the more meaningful.

The care package has become our tradition now. She makes them for me at Christmas and my birthday, and they are always awesome. Parents and grandparents take note: It’s a great gift to stock the apartment of a college kid or to give at a housewarming as well.

So the next time you’re stumped trying to pick out a gift for the young adult in your life, go back to the basics. And don’t forget the toilet paper.

What do you think? Have you ever given anyone a Gift of Necessity for Christmas? Do you prefer practical gifts, or do you like something you wouldn’t necessarily buy on your own?