I just finished wrapping my parents’ Christmas presents. Every time I wrap presents, I am inevitably drawn to ruminating about how 1. I am not a terrible wrapper (1) when I really give some time and effort to it and 2. how my dad really does a nice job of wrapping presents. He has always been the official wrapper in the family — it’s a chore he tackles instead of my mom, and if you want something to look really nice, you ask him to wrap it.
It’s not like my family has super nice paper or anything, my mom usually buys whatever from Kmart or Target (2) or wherever she’s been that season. For years, we had those now seemingly dated plastic bows with the adhesive tape on the back and the name tags (3) that went on the corners. The paper was generically Christmas (e.g.,”Merry Christmas”) or sometimes just holiday (e.g., snowmen). It often was very thin, which also presented even more of a challenge for wrapping and cutting, especially if you got the “bad” scissors.
But it’s a challenge my dad takes on with relish, it seems, working meticulously to present the snappiest looking present you could want. And something odd shaped? He’s your man. He’ll engineer that out, too. You definitely want him on the case. I’ve never been able to figure out why he takes this task on with such pride, but maybe it’s just a mix of wanting to look good for the recipient and just taking satisfaction in a job well done.
I know he takes this business seriously, because it’s the one time I’ve ever seen him use a material with reckless abandon. Normally, he’s a man of thrift; someone who believes that less is more. I’ve heard him eschew using air freshener after going to the bathroom because you shouldn’t “waste it,” not because of any safeguarding of the ozone. He routinely advises us to use half of a kleenex. He claims he uses 4 squares of toilet paper — he’s a guy, so he’s only using toilet paper for one reason, people. And the best of the insanity is that he doesn’t use a blinker — because he doesn’t want to “waste blinks.” I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. He claims he uses one when there’s people behind him, but I think he waits until the very last minute, so the courtesy and safety in that has got to be nil (4).
But when he wraps presents, he uses as much scotch tape is as necessary to do the job. I know that sounds like a small detail, but it’s not. If you knew my father (see the aforementioned), you’d know that it’s just not. The fact that he’ll tape down three things in a very small area just to ensure he can get stick straight corners is amazing to me. I can’t believe he’s using all this tape. And for what? Wrapping paper that will soon end up in the garbage … I mean, recycling bin? It’s just fascinating to me. I’d think he’d be yelling to one of us (as he eavesdrops on every possible sound that goes on in his house), “why are you using all that tape!?” But no. He’s fine with it. Because he also will just use as much as he needs to make that wrapping job look immaculate.
I wonder if it’s somewhat related to the fact that my Grandma used to take an inordinate amount of time UNwrapping her gifts. She would take her time, delicately unwrapping the paper, making sure it didn’t tear, and folding it nicely afterward. You could have wrapped a present with her present’s paper directly afterward. I’d sit there and think — “C’MON, Grandma. Let’s DO this.”
As I was wrapping tonight and musing these things over, however, I realized that growing up in the midst of the Great Depression would probably make you cherish your gifts and make you slowly unwrap and save your wrapping paper. You learned to save everything (a trait that has been passed down to my dad — known as being a pack rat — and down to me — now known as hoarding), and you only got one gift. She’d tell me of the Christmases she and her nine other brothers and sisters got to go to the Salvation Army (or what have you) and pick out one gift from the donation bin. Sad.
So maybe his desire to wrap like a badass comes from that mentality. I don’t know. But the man spares no expense when it comes to Scotch tape. I’ll tell you that. And these are the details which I’ll miss someday. These are the small pieces of minutia that make us real.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
(1) I’m not a great RAPPER, though. I *can* rhyme pretty well on command, but I sort of freeze up in front of people. I’m not guaranteeing my rhymes will be slick, but they’ll rhyme.
(2) I was at Target and Costco tonight. Both of them were so much less scary than I thought. Costco was like a Wednesday afternoon. Shocking. Target also had “premium” wrapping paper for $5 a roll. It was pretty nice. I got the $2.50 a roll instead. C’est la vie.
(3) When we were older and got more physical gifts, the boxes were still wrapped, but our names were just written on them in black Sharpie …
(4) What’s even more baffling is that he’s given me so many more awesome tips for driving that have been with me all throughout the years and have made me such a good, safe, defensive driver.