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This is the time of year when I hear that 4-letter word a lot. It’s awful that has to resonate right in the middle of the holidays, but that seems simply unavoidable, pounding into my head and creating all sorts of awful echoes.
Whew! Just typing it made me shiver and avert my eyes. Makes me gulp, turn that most embarrassing crimson, taste bile in my throat and, well, feel totally useless. Pardon me a second while I hyperventilate.
You see, I love giving holiday gifts, but to deliver them causes this overpowering phobia to seize the dexterity of my appendages and my powers of judgment: I simply can’t wrap.
In fact, I’m about as good a wrapper as I am a rapper – a sentence that in itself illustrates my rhyming abilities.
Remember the woman in Tom Robbins’ book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? She had enormous thumbs?
That’s me when the paper comes out of the bin and the tape rolls are lined up. Only I usually have eight thumbs to go along with the two I enjoyed at birth.
If you think I’m exaggerating my ineptness, there are hundreds of personal testimonies I can subpoena. They’ve all received gifts wrapped by me.
And then there are others who have watched me try – emphasis, try – to wrap a basic box and then have stepped in and taken over, so painful was enduring my clumsy cutting, folding and sticking I was attempting.
In fact, my wrapping game is sort of like my golf game: Once in a while, I’ll do it right and then have no idea how to repeat the process for the next dozen or so times.
I have the best of intentions, but I only rarely seem to be able to do something, well, enticing – entertaining, yes; colorful, yes; thoughtful, yes – but not enticing, as good gift wrapping should be.
When it comes from me, don’t judge a gift by its cover.
Thank God for the invention of the gift bag, but I even can mess up those, rending them at the seams, mangling the tissue paper inside.
It’s horribly humbling, because I was born from a lineage of beautiful and creative wrappers, the Tupacs of the holiday season.
My grandmother used my finger many a winter night while she tied handmade bows on packages in the cold upstairs bedroom where she did her pre-Christmas work.
My mother’s packages look as if they came from a store, complete with dangling ornaments, and she even took a class to do outrageous bows.
To them I owe an apology for embarrassing their legacy.
I have creative ideas. I like to hide stuff, mislead the recipient and create thematic approaches.
I think I inherited that from my dad, who once gave some little trinket to my mom disguised in a long box filled with three of those old 10-ounce coke bottles. I don’t recall the gift, but the subterfuge is ingrained.
Reusing or misusing boxes? As long as it’s legal, I’m all for it. I adore receiving those holiday boxes that have quaint designs all over them. That way, I only need a ribbon to reuse them.
You see, I use more cuts of paper than a butcher does with a side of beef. I can’t scissor straight – even though I buy the kind of paper with the grids on the back – and I’ve been led to believe that I hold some sort of record for using the most Scotch tape on a single package. My belief is, if you can’t fold the paper neatly, you can at least stick those ragged edges tightly.
I think this approach developed about the time I started to mature (no wise cracks, please) and expected more of myself in presenting gifts.
One night, when I was in high school, I came home late from being out with friends on Christmas Eve and still had a few gifts to wrap for family members.
Only I quickly depleted the supply of Scotch tape – if I used ice the way I do tape, the Arctic would be depleted – had to dig around for a solution and wound up using masking tape.
You know how you experts use little fold-unders and roll-overs to hide your taping? Just think of my doing that at midnight using masking tape.
I was so scarred by that exposure that for the ensuing years I willingly paid others to handle this awful assignment.
I’ve made donations to dozens of youth groups and charities that have those tables in the mall. I’ve taken to them presents to wrap that I didn’t even buy at the mall. I’ve stood patiently in long lines at department stores and paid handsomely for the deluxe packages.
One year, with big pieces to wrap, a deadline and not enough free time, I actually hired someone to come to my house to wrap gifts.
I’ve leaned on dozens of friends and my poor, overtaxed mother for their expertise.
Red Envelope, Amazon or anyplace else that wraps and ships are golden to me.
I realize there are millions spent annually in counseling fees for people trying to avoid their problems and shortcomings.
Does that mean I’m doubly psychotic because I’ve avoided getting therapy for my avoidance of wrapping?
I don’t know that answer and won’t invest the co-pays to learn it.
But I know one thing: This year, my wife taken control. She has seen my wrap sheet.