It’s the first week of December and already I’m wrapping gifts. This would be a good time to share I am the world’s worst gift wrapper. OK, maybe not the worst, but one of the worst. Which is why any retailer offering courtesy gift-wrapping gets an A+ from me.
When I was a college freshman, my friend Carolee got a part time, seasonal job at the mall, gift wrapping. She said on any given shift, she might wrap 50 or more gifts. How do you do it, I asked. It’s easy, she said. I would have been fired the first hour.
When I was in elementary school, we had a housekeeper named Marguerite. She cooked, she ironed, she washed clothes, she braided hair. The only thing she wouldn’t do was cleaning. She was a whiz, however, at wrapping gifts. She did that thing with the scissors where you curl the ribbon for the bow like nobody’s business. I remember asking her to help me wrap Christmas gifts. She declined. I had the rolls of wrapping paper and the Scotch tape and the presents all ready. I didn’t cut enough paper off the roll to wrap the first gift. The second gift, I had too much paper. By the time I got around to the third gift, Marguerite snatched it away.
This is the first and last time I’m going to do this for you, she said, grumbling. But it wasn’t.
My immediate family has more than its share of bungled gift-wrapping stories.
My husband, who has never understood my obsession with gift-wrap, is possibly an even worse gift wrapper than me. He might win our family award for Worst Wrapped Gift. He uses too much tape or not enough. Wrapping paper in his hands turns to confetti. He has no concept of neatly folded corners. In recent years he’s taken to giving gifts in the shopping bag the store gave him.
I recall a Christmas bash at the home of a British friend named Sue. Sue and her husband Mark have since moved to jolly England, but I loved their house in New York which was creaky and Victorian with lots of odd nooks and crannies and wide board wooden floor boards. Sue labored for hours producing the vast array of English treats she put out including trifle and plum cake and sticky pudding with toffee sauce. I could hardly tear myself away from the apricot studded Stilton. They had a fabulous tree which went all the way to the parlor ceiling, every branch laden with homemade gingerbread men and strung popcorn and blown glass ornaments. I remember noticing the wrapped gifts under the tree had a pleasantly frumpy look.
Sue caught me eyeing these parcels as I stood, spiked punch in hand.
It’s an English tradition to save the wrapping paper and use it again, she said. That’s why we don’t tear it, we carefully open it, to use again. Sometimes it lasts for years.
I like that, I said.
A long time ago, when I was quite young and single, I went to my friend Christina’s place on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village on Christmas Eve after her two young sons were in bed. Ostensibly I was there to help wrap their gifts. Christina was a single mom. She had a boyfriend named Tom who was there to assemble what needed assembly. Tom showed up with a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps. Needless to say, three hours into it, we’d barely wrapped anything.
Tell them Santa ran out of wrapping paper, Tom said.
My advice in general is don’t give your sweetheart a Christmas gift in a brown paper bag.