John and I argue every Christmas about gift wrapping. It’s a tradition we’ve grown comfortable with. We get out the wrapping paper, tape, and scissors. Then the fun begins.
“Okay,” he says. “Give me the biggest present first.”
“Good. Good. Set it down right here.” He eyes the box from every angle; skooches it this way and that with little taps from the scissors.
I stifle a yawn as he selects the paper. For some reason, he doesn’t think much about this part of the process. The BEAUTY of the gift doesn’t matter to him. The STRUCTURE of the gift is his only concern.
He reaches past the new, shiny rolls of paper I’ve bought and rescues the faded, leftover stuff from last year. It is wrinkled and ugly — the once-cheery poinsettia print is now a mass of pinkish weeds.
“No use to waste this,” he says.
He gives me a noble look, as if I should be proud of his thrift. Then his cheap hands iron across the paper and the box is set on top.
“You wrap a much neater present if you take the time to match paper size to gift size.”
The tape measure screeches out, metal tab measuring each side of the gift. The he measures the paper and cuts it to perfect proportions.
With maddening precision, he folds a line across on edge of the paper and pulls it up across the top of the box. One tiny tab of tape holds it onto the box. A few more minutes, lots of folding and smoothing, and a tiny bit more tape. He’s done.
He steps back like a calf-roper, his arms raised in triumph. I think I should throw roses.
Now it’s my turn. I close my eyes and reach into a bag. Oh, boy! My gift is shaped like a stop sign. It is bulgy in the middle and has a plastic ridge around the edges. What a challenge! I feel John’s shudder traveling down to his feet, across the floor, and up my spine.
“You aren’t gonna do THAT one — are you??” I’ve already chosen my paper; a brand-new roll with a pattern. John would just LOVE to match the edges of this pattern. Too bad.
I try to cut the paper straight, but the scissors make a curvy line, and the blades rip an alligator-toothed edge along the end of the paper. He is groaning. I slap the wrap over the top of the gift. Looks like the middle. We’ll see.
Gathering the edges up and crimping them along the corners like a pie crust, I reach for the tape.
By now, John’s face is as red as Rudolph’s nose. His voice takes on the gruffness of 10 Grinches. Plus 2.
“YOU’RE WASTING PAPER! THAT LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING FROM THE DUMPSTER!”
His outburst doesn’t surprise me. Remember the tradition thing?
“Who cares what it looks like?” I say. “It’s what’s inside that matters. I think I’ll do the football next.” John’s roar makes the tinsel on the tree sway.
It is that portion of the evening I always look forward to. My husband decides I shouldn’t wrap another gift. He MUST take over the job.
And here come the words I wait for each Christmas. They warm my heart more than a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s day:
“WRAPPING GIFTS IS AN ART.” He emits a sign of pity for his talentless wife and whines out the traditional last stanza of our annual Christmas medley:
“I don’t think you’ll EVER get the hang of it…” he mutters.
I nod meekly, sit back quietly, and chomp on freshly-baked Christmas cookies while I watch the Wrap-Master at work.
Traditions. They’re what make holidays special.
Robin Garrison Leach is a freelance writer and columnist from Quincy, Illinois."Robin Writes" is published in numerous Missouri and Illinois newspapers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.