I recall as a child that there were two kinds of Christmas wrapping paper. One was a large roll wrapped alone, usually fancy. We never bought that one. We bought the cheap, small package of four rolls. Wrapping paper, one roll of tape, and we were on our way. But every year we made the same mistake and had to go back to the store to buy a second roll of tape the next day.
Next came the debate. Should you randomly wrap everyone’s gifts in any of the papers, or use one pattern for each person, turning Christmas morning into a somewhat organized chaos? I remember one problem using the one-pattern-per-person theory was that it easily backfired when the children started to count how many presents they got. You can obscure the number of presents a child has by using different wrappings, but if each kid has their own pattern it’s only a matter of time before they discover who got how many gifts and, in true Christmas spirit, begin fighting. The fact that one toy is more expensive than another does not count to a child. Plus, when you’re all done with the wrapping paper, the empty tubes become fighting swords for the next morning’s joust.
Somewhere there is a hall of shame for horrible gift wrappers. The first face you’ll see in there is mine. Never in my life have I successfully wrapped a gift that didn’t look like a committee of drunks did it. I always got the paper wrong and had to cut off some of the length and add it to the width to make it perfect. I work on making those nice little hospital corners but they always look like they got run over by a dump truck.
I can get a ribbon wrapped around the box, but then I have to face my nemesis—the bow. Nowadays, I just press in the pre-made bows. But in the olden days, we had to make our own. Once you tied the ribbon around the present, you had long strips left-over which theoretically were self-curling ribbons but weren’t exactly self-curling. You had to open a scissor, place the ribbon on the blade, place your thumb against the ribbon which is against the blade, pull tight, and pull the ribbon, through to make it curl, but not with so much power that you would make it straight. An open blade, my thumb pressing down hard, anything can slip in any direction, what could possible go wrong with that? You had to do this another 15 times to get enough self-curling ribbons to make a fancy bow, plus with 15 ribbons it was easy to hide the ones with the blood underneath.
I recall wrapping parties with my mother, grandmother and aunt. The one problem we constantly had was we got so caught up in our wrapping, we commonly neglected to label the gift. We had to tear open a corner until we figured out what was inside. Then we had to patch it up so that no one would know what stupid elves we were.
Leftover wrapping paper was put away for next year. Now I think to myself how ridiculous it is to save 89 cents worth of paper. But my grandmother went through the Depression and had a poem she liked to recite. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” People who lived through that era are notably frugal, and if my grandmother could figure a way to put a patch on a popped balloon, she would.
Now, wrapping is a breeze. I love the pre-fabricated bags you just drop the present in. And if you order online, they wrap it for you. The days of shamefully handing over a gift that looks like I wrapped it in the car on my way over are gone.
Such a simple task, wrapping a box. How can it challenge me the way it does? I actually took a three-hour gift-wrapping class a few years ago. I failed wrapping, but took a medal for origami model of a DNA helix. Not exactly what I was going for, since I was trying to wrap socks. Well, happy wrapping and Merry Christmas.