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After Work: It's The Thought That Counts. I Hope.

...I am bad at wrapping. Really bad. It begins with the cutting of the paper, which always starts out straight but wavers off course about eight inches or so in. Then there’s the tape, which somehow always breaks off on its little spindle and sticks to itself. This year, I got fancy and bought a gift tape dispenser. I should have looked on the back of the pack. There were three or four steps involved to load it. If a tape dispenser isn’t intuitive, I shouldn’t be handling the thing...

As Dona Gibbs wraps the last of the Christmas presents she ruefully reflects on the art of making presents - and other things - presentable.

"My father bribed me to wrap his presents for my mother,'' Dona recalls "He was a desperate, desperate man. Once he even resorted to having my mother wrap her own gifts. Kind of took the surprise away.''

For more of Dona's delicious columns please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

I just finished wrapping the last of the Christmas presents today.

“My goodness,” you might be saying to yourself. “That woman is incredibly organized.”

Truth is, I’m not and I waited until almost the last minute because in a day we’ll be shoehorning these gifts into our luggage for a trip to London where the recipients live—our son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

Since shipping often costs more than the item itself and another trip at Christmas isn’t in the cards, we’re hauling them over now.

I am bad at wrapping. Really bad. It begins with the cutting of the paper, which always starts out straight but wavers off course about eight inches or so in. Then there’s the tape, which somehow always breaks off on its little spindle and sticks to itself. This year, I got fancy and bought a gift tape dispenser. I should have looked on the back of the pack. There were three or four steps involved to load it. If a tape dispenser isn’t intuitive, I shouldn’t be handling the thing.

A stray piece of tape is glinting in the light even as I’m writing this.

Books are my favorite things to give as gifts. I love getting books myself but a major motive in giving books is that they’re easy to wrap. The downside is that you can never disguise the fact the gift is a book. That decreases the joy of rattling packages (a major childhood tradition) stacked under the tree to guess what’s in them.

Anyway I snipped crookedly away and finished up the chore. Even though several of the bundles were lumpy, I felt good to get it all done. Whew.

I started musing on the jobs I’d not be hired for because of this deficiency. Butcher? No. While I could probably get over the icky-factor and saw through huge cuts of meat, I couldn’t wrap two thick chops in a piece of paper neatly. The tape I’d be able to manage. String? Forget it.

Chinese laundry worker? Not in the cards. I’d have to wrap six shirts in brown paper and tie them up without wrinkling the whole lot. If I had to wrap a single shirt, I’d be fired on the spot.

Gift shop sales clerk? No. Have you seen those bows that look like roses?

The list goes on and one. And I won’t be answering any ads that read, “Holiday wrappers wanted.”

In Japan, I’ve read, beautifully wrapped packages are part of a tradition and that sometimes these gifts are ceremonial in nature and never get opened but handed to someone else on another occasion of gift giving. Sounds good to me, especially if somebody else has done the wrapping.

I used to buy gifts in a Japanese gift store so I can attest to the beauty and sensitivity of the wrapping. And for a while for obvious reasons, I bought gifts there. But remember, this is a culture that can fold any number of amusing animals from a small square of paper. You wouldn’t want to see my origami cranes and frogs.

I truly believe that my lack of gift-wrapping skill was inherited from my father’s side of the family. My Aunt Elsie was a notorious bad wrapper. Family members would snicker and point out misshapen objects under the tree, “Sure can tell which ones Elsie wrapped.”
Mean spirited but accurate.

In her later years, Aunt Elsie had her gifts professionally gussied up. That’d show them.

My father bribed me to wrap his presents for my mother. He was a desperate, desperate man. Once he even resorted to having my mother wrap her own gifts. Kind of took the surprise away.

His biggest sweet but misguided attempt was to hand me a stack of dollar bills. He thought, he told me, it’d be a lot of fun if I constructed a big head of cabbage out of this spendable greenery to give to my mother.

I was fourteen at the time. I tried my hardest, folding and pinning them in layers around a Styrofoam ball.

Christmas morning when my mother received this construction she laughed in glee. Or at least I think it was glee.

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