WRAP IT UP!

By this time each year, most of my Christmas presents have been bought. They would still be unwrapped, though. To tell you the truth, I loathe wrapping. And with Christmas presents, wrapping is a double whammy. Each gift first must be placed in a tissue-arranged flimsy white box that needs assembly, and I spend so much time on this tissue paper business that inevitably I shred or tear it and either have to bury that piece at the bottom of the box or start anew, again attempting to approximate it “just so.” In other words, when the gift is opened, I pray the recipient doesn’t think a preschooler prepared it. Next, I wrap the present in the pretty paper, trying not to get my hair in the tape, and I have no idea how this happens, or twist the tape, and struggling with the corners. I tie a ribbon around it and this may take a few tries, and affix the label so everybody knows which gift is theirs, and write “fragile” on the box and “perishable” if I’ve included my trademark chocolate brownies. Then I head to the garage for a bigger shipping carton, which to me is a euphemism for box. I find the bubble wrap or those dreaded peanuts that get all over the place, and I need a ton of packing tape. Sometimes I have to wrap the shipping box in brown paper, so then I cut up paper grocery bags and tape them together, and remember to put the box against the printed side of the paper so the unmarked side is on the outside. Out comes the Sharpie and I can finally address the big carton, again, writing “fragile” all over it because I was foolish enough to buy breakable things, and scribbling “perishable” next to all the “fragile” markings. I place the completed, double-wrapped and addressed box on the stairs near the door. Phew. That’s one. There are lots more. Then, hours later, I make several trips to the car, and drive to the Post Office. It takes several more trips to the counter, and I lock the car each time I walk away from it. Finally I get to swipe a credit card and go back to the car and think, Why, Oh Why didn’t I just buy gift cards?

Well, sometimes I do buy a gift card or two, especially for family members who love boating or photography and who are purchasing a new widget for their avocation, but usually, I go the traditional route. I might be on a trip, or at a crafts fair or a market, or just “out” and I find that perfect something that just yells the recipient’s name. And as my brain is not wired to cut me off, and does not scream back to me, “No. Don’t buy that! It’s a weird size and will never fit in a box. It’s going to break! Are you crazy? You will need two miles worth of packing rolls to get that across country. It’s way too heavy. Shipping will cost you double the gift amount. You will need a refrigerator box to mail it and where are you going to find that? No. No. No!,” I bring the coveted item home. Then I put it in a safe place for months, and come December, I tear apart every single closet in the house to find this stuff. This is my annual personal holiday routine that drives me to consume most every green, red and silver-wrapped Chocolate Kiss in the house.

But I love it. Not the wrapping, I enjoy the hunt of finding something that a friend or family member might consider “on the mark” and with luck, “just right.” I’m sure I’ve been off that mark, but I hope not too many times. I have come across beautiful jewelry, theme-inspired and artistic scarves and neckties, and loads of interesting books at shops in museums or historical sites, and I have also bought autographed books after attending lectures. I’ve walked into CD shops on my travels and asked about the local sound so I can purchase the music of a new group or an up-and-coming voice. I’ve bought colorful batik purses, beautiful needlepoint works which I’ve framed for the recipient, and earthen-toned hand woven placemats and runners, all for Christmas presents. In the Southwest, I found that pair of cuff links one family member requested, fashioned from silver by a Navajo jewelry maker. I buy soaps, homemade jellies, lotions and wines from a local area when I travel, and love the hand fashioned wax candles I bought last year at my own farmers’ market. Of course, I do go to the big stores on occasion, but usually that is where I feel most overwhelmed. One year I bought most of my presents at a hospital gift shop; all the proceeds went to fund the care of underinsured or uninsured pediatric patients. I buy from small businesses and craft fair booths, and have loved items I’ve selected from vintage stores and even recycled fashion stores. I’ve framed collectors’ stamps and once bought a Roman coin for a family member. Like I said, it’s all in the hunt.

Yet, every season, when we have put away the wrappings and taken the ornaments off the tree, I am afflicted by this deep sadness. I know it is a direct result of my gift giving. It’s not that I’m unhappy with my choices because I know I had a blast shopping for these personal gifts. It’s not that my gifts arrived broken; my packing is usually more than adequate. Well, except for the time I listened to a clerk at the Post Office who said it was unnecessary to reinforce each seam and side with packing tape, even using the word “overkill,” I believe. So I didn’t purchase more tape while at the counter and did it her way. Naturally, that box was delivered exposed to the elements, and rain water soaked through to the gift. Now I tape everything and never accept another word on this topic. And lastly, it’s not that the recipients hated the gifts; au contraire, people seem to enjoy them.

No, what really gets me is that after each year’s holiday buying frenzy nationwide, when every news source announces the long-awaited retail shopping consumer statistics, those very numbers that predict whether businesses are going to have a good year or a subpar one, I know the data are not accurate because they fail to include my January through December year-round gift-buying sprees. Either I have shopped too early, or in the “wrong” places, (think “non-mall” shops) or both. And naturally, I take this personally.

Ah well, this doesn’t stop me from relying on entrepreneurs and shops that support good causes for my Christmas presents, but I’m hoping the government will come up with some kind of new category to represent the folks (I know I can’t be the only one doing this) buying throughout the year and in non-mall stores. In the meantime, I have to be happy that I’m doing my part for the shipping industry. I buy so many rolls of packing tape that you could re-roof your house, and still have some left over to make the garage roof watertight, too. And of course, I know I do my part for the hair product industry; you have no idea how many products I buy each January to repair my tresses after using all that tape!

Kathy Galgano

October 28, 2013

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