Guess what I've been doing pretty much all day today?
If you guessed, "Meditating silently and deeply upon the mystery of the Incarnation while sipping green chai tea topped off with a generous dollop of light whipped cream," you are--wrong. But boy, does that sound good.
No, today I've been experiencing that exquisite horror called wrapping the Christmas presents. Why do I call it a horror? Let me explain:
There are some women who delight in the art of gift-wrapping. These talented creatures design and manufacture their own bows, and some of them even make their own gift wrap, using rolls of butcher paper, their personal dried flower collection, and some hand-cut stencil patterns of the Eiffel Tower drawn to scale which they made in their spare time. Their packages are a joy to behold, every corner neatly folded; if you handed them a basketball and asked them to wrap it they would create a clever design that made the ball look, when wrapped, like the balloon portion of a hot air balloon, and would fill the basket beneath it with cute sports-themed adhesive bandages to go along with the gift.
There are, further, women for whom gift-wrapping isn't so much an art, but merely a chore. It's not an unpleasant one, necessarily; it just doesn't call forth the heights of their creative powers. They're perfectly happy to use store-bought paper and bows, and would put an odd-shaped gift like a basketball into a gift bag. Their packages are neat and tidy, appealing to the eye without being masterpieces of homemade creativity; they approach a gift-wrapping session with calm confidence and an awareness of the need to get the job done, which they then proceed to do as matter-of-factly as possible.
And then there are women like me.
If you asked me to explain mathematically how a two dimensional sheet of paper can be turned into a three-dimensional object, I'd probably do all right (provided we're talking about simple shapes, and not, say, a truncated dodecahedron). In theory, I understand that a flat piece of paper can, indeed, wrap neatly and cleanly around many three-dimensional objects, and that some objects (such as books, say) should pose absolutely no difficulty whatsoever to the process of wrapping a flat piece of paper around them.
That's theory. When it comes to practice, I'm all--well, I'd say all thumbs, but multiple thumbs could only improve my sad attempts at wrapping gifts.
As I told a choir friend yesterday, if you sat one hundred drunk monkeys in front of a hundred gift tables with a hundred gifts to be wrapped on each of them, ninety-nine of the monkeys would do a better job than I do. The hundredth would, of course, be passed out on the floor, where at least he wouldn't be doing as much damage as I would be.
The person who created gift bags is my hero. But unfortunately, especially at Christmas, it's not really possible to use gift bags for everything. And so each year I put off the gift-wrapping as long as possible.
Two things have worked to my advantage in years past: one, the girls were little enough not to notice packaging flaws, and two, Thad always helps. Thad is a master of gift wrap; the first time I saw him wrap a gift I was awestruck at the precision and artistry of his finished product, and even today if we have to give a gift to some adult non-relative and I can't find a gift bag, I ask him to do the wrapping.
But the girls are older now, and do a pretty darned good job of wrapping gifts already (they'll take after their dad in this area, thank goodness!). The other thing that was different this year is that I decided to do the whole thing myself. Thad has had to work long hours lately, and he worked a full day plus today--with no guarantee that he won't be on the phone with work or even have to go in over the course of the next couple of days. The last thing he needed was to be greeted with the news that a marathon gift-wrapping session awaited his help.
So at about three this afternoon, I began moving all the gifts, most of them purchased online, from the closet to the bed in my room. I spent nearly an hour (between normal interruptions) just opening all the boxes and breaking them down for recycling, disposing of the excess packaging, and putting all the receipts into a folder I swiped from the school supply box for that purpose. I then spent another hour organizing the gifts into piles, stashing Thad's back into the closet to be wrapped later (because I'm still waiting for an item to show up), and calling one company which sent me two of the three items I ordered (more on that later). Finally, I started wrapping the gifts.
If I tell you how long it took me, you'll think I went crazy and bought my children dozens of gifts each, when actually we're having a fairly small Christmas this year, especially compared to the years when they were little and the fun of opening things was half the fun of Christmas. And I know that part of the reason it took so long were all those normal interruptions involving dinner and phone calls and Thad getting home from work and things of that nature. But the reality is that when you're not very good at wrapping gifts, it can take a long time to get through the process, because you're never quite sure if you've cut enough paper until the moment you realize you haven't, and you keep misplacing your scissors for the excellent reason that you keep setting them down by the gift tags and not realizing this until you start to try to wrap the next gift, and so on.
But eventually I finished, and without either (a) nicking myself with the scissors or (b) discovering that a gift was poking its way out of its package already. Yay!
What's that? Thad's gifts are still unwrapped in the closet? Oh, there are a few more days. Maybe I'll go pick up some gift bags...