Traditions

One of the things I remember most vividly from my childhood is spending cozy December days wrapping Christmas presents with my mom.  For many years I’d just sit and keep her company as she wrapped the gifts, it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I actually participated in the wrapping itself.

My mom taught me everything about wrapping that I utilize today.  My brother and I were masters at present guessing, so mom went out of her way to disguise the gifts that she put under the tree.  A DVD (or back in those days a VHS tape) has a very distinctive size and weight, so she never just wrapped them up and put them under the tree.  Things like that always went into a box to disguise it.  If you were getting a really tiny present (something like jewelry), it almost always went into a really huge box.  Half the fun of wrapping the presents was picking out the box that it went into.  We had an old Strawberry Shortcake Berry Trolley box that we used to wrap presents in every year up until the point that I got married.  By that point the box was so old that the cardboard was practically disintegrating and the glue had worn out in almost all of the seams.  It didn’t matter though, we still used the box every year just to see who would end up with a present in the Strawberry Shortcake box that year.

Mom also taught me the art of paper conservation.  She would sit there and measure a box on the paper from every single direction to make sure that she was wasting as little paper as possible.  And she never made a mistake in cutting the wrong size, her measuring was always perfect.  When I started wrapping with her in later years, she taught me how to put a box on one edge of the paper and roll it until I’d put all four sides of the box onto the paper to ensure that the paper would fit all the way around.  She taught me to properly measure the sides of the paper to ensure there was enough to fold into the pretty envelope shapes and still have enough to overlap so there was no gap.  She taught me to cut enough paper so that the cut edge could be folded over into a perfectly straight seam versus showing the ragged edge that you just cut off.

Then there was the wrapping itself.  Part of the advantage to boxing all the gifts (beyond disguising them effectively) was that you could always wrap a perfectly proportioned gift and make every crease straight and even.  She could wrap a present with just four small pieces of tape, and still have it perfectly tight and secure.  Try as I might, I still have to use more tape than that to get my presents to look as beautiful, but every year I strive to use as little tape as possible.  Wrapping presents was something we always spent hours working on, there was no rushing.  Every fold was perfectly creased and pulled tight around the gift.  Rushing would lead to sloppy wrapping, and part of what mom took pride in was making a beautiful present to sit underneath the tree.

So this past weekend I got the urge to get some presents under my own tree.  The shopping was all completed in October, and the tree had been up and decorated for almost two weeks, so it was definately time to get some gifts wrapped underneath it.  While the kids were all down for their naps I dug out their presents and got them all boxed.  I used some standard Christmas boxes, some diaper boxes, and some UPS boxes from deliveries we’d gotten a few months back.  I’d been saving all sorts of boxes just for this, not knowing at the time what I’d need.  About the time I finished boxing everything, Brendan came out into the living room where my wrapping station was set up.  I expected him to go down to the basement and play with his toys, but he sat down and started to watch me wrap presents.  He was very interested in what I was doing and soon started to ask questions.

It was very much like the wrapping sessions I used to have with my mom.  I explained to him why all the presents were in boxes, and he helped me sort the boxes into piles so I could more easily remember whose present was in each of the boxes.  Then he wanted to know how I knew how much paper to cut off to cover the present, so I showed him how to measure a box properly to fit the paper.  I even went into the explination of how to make sure the box used as little paper as possible, so as not to waste it. It gave me a very good feeling to pass along all the things I’d learned at his age, and to spend a cozy afternoon wrapping presents with him.

One of the things that interested him most was something that did not come from my mom.  I had multiple rolls of wrapping paper on the floor with me, and most people would have chosen random paper to wrap each gift in, but not me.  I always have a rhyme and reason to my wrapping.  So, all of the gifts for Matt’s family went into one paper, the gifts for my family went into a second paper, and the gifts for my kids went into a third.  Brendan wanted to know why, so I explained that doing it that way made it easier for me to identify which presents belonged at each family gathering and there was less chance of us opening a present at the wrong time, or forgetting to bring a present along to grandma’s house.  This made perfect sense to my linear thinking son.  Then once the presents were all wrapped he helped me to stack them underneath the tree.

Brendan really seemed to enjoy our time together, and I look forward to spending many more Decembers wrapping Christmas presents with him and creating lasting memories.

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