Tied With a Bow–The Trials of Wrapping Gifts
It’s deeply embarrassing, but no one in my immediate family can decently wrap a gift. It’s much worse than mere bungling; it’s awful, including reusing last year’s wrapping paper because I’m thrifty and don’t Brits do this? I believe this custom of smoothing and saving and re-using wrapping paper is a British thing; an English neighbor friend said so when I handed her a gift I’d wrapped in beautiful if battered paper. “This is just like home!” she said, wincing.
Christmas morning at our house is quite the experience. Disparaging remarks regarding the jumble of badly wrapped gifts are discouraged, as is taking pictures. In years past there was the obligatory slew of apologies for horrible presentation, but we’re way beyond that. What’s the use, since some of us, I won’t mention names, don’t see the point of gift wrapping, as isn’t the fun of Christmas tearing off the paper as quickly as possible?
My failure as a gift wrapper is rooted in personal history. As a child, I decided early on someone else should do my gift wrapping. Marguerite, our nanny/housekeeper, quickly lost patience with my clumsy efforts. On the occasion of any birthday or holiday that required a wrapped gift, she seized paper, ribbon, tape, and scissors away from me and did the job herself to spare our family from humiliation. In college, my freshman roommate, Carolee, secured a seasonal job at the mall in Macy’s gift wrapping department. Carolee attempted to school me in the professional wrapping tricks she picked up, but soon threw in the towel. “Some people just aren’t cut out for this,” she said.
Shabby as my results are, at least I make an effort.
My husband, nicknamed Mr. Sax, has long abandoned any pretense gift wrapping matters. He caused a ruckus one Christmas morning handing me a gift “wrapped” in a crumbled brown paper bag. “I wrapped it myself,” he said, sheepishly. Our son took a picture on his phone and posted it on social media, where it immediately got lots of likes. “This just made my morning,” his friend from grad school commented.
Here’s a true holiday gift wrap story. Jessye Norman, the opera star, who recently passed away, was a friend of June Goldfinger, the designer. Goldfinger had a store in Katonah called KGS, which stood for Katonah General Store, although the store was anything but general. In the early 1990s when she opened, it was very exclusive. She sold house wares and fine linens and a smattering of jewelry of her own design, and some clothing. Some say the clothes were actually early designs of Eileen Fisher, and maybe they were.
A week before Christmas, she closed the store one evening to the public to give Norman a private shopping night. As Goldfinger’s employee, I was there to wrap what Norman purchased. The soprano was regal and awesome and bought a lot of stuff. Goldfinger, well aware of my limitations, was prescient in that for the first time ever she stocked in a supply of gift bags, which were a new thing at the time. The genius of the gift bag is all you need is loads of nice tissue paper. Norman was duly impressed.
In recent years my family has adopted a hard-and-fast rule to holiday shop only in local stores where they offer courtesy gift wrapping—or beautiful gift bags.
First, lay in supplies
›› Buy the nicest wrapping paper you can find, but if there’s no time to shop, go with newspaper.
›› Buy a six-pack of scotch invisible tape; it’s not that you’ll run out, but more likely most of the tape will get stuck on the roll and you won’t be able to get it off.
›› Don’t mess around with ribbon or bows.
›› Use big scissors because they’re fun to use.
Get to work
›› Lay the object to be wrapped on the paper.
›› Take the big scissors and cut randomly.
›› Fold over object to be wrapped. Make it fit. If it doesn’t, fold paper repeatedly it until you make it fit.
›› Holding paper down, reach for the tape with your other hand; pull tape off, tear it without getting your finger stuck, and put the tape where your finger is. Repeat until the entire package is covered with tape.
›› Get a really nice card and make sure you gave a really good gift.