21 December 2011

Wrapping

My mother loved doing Christmas. Her Christmas was an exuberant but tasteful echt-Victorian tree and ornaments and swags and lights and candles and ribbons and cookies and stockings hung by the chimney with care. She was an expert wrapper, with a deep frugal streak – wrapping paper was carefully recycled (really, you’d never have known), ribbons were put away for use another year, and tags were sorted by name, a shoebox per child. She made the tags, of ends of ribbon, bits cut from Christmas cards, a mylar floof, a flocked holly leaf. Sometimes, even, the tags stayed attached to frilly gold elastic “ribbons”, to be slipped around just the right sized package the next year.

I have a box of her tags. A gold gift box from Lord & Taylor, from the days when department stores put scarves and blouses in real boxes, it’s a jumble of tags, new and old. Some have been around since I was a child (or so it seems). Others are more recent; there are tags that my mother made for my husband and daughter.

My wrapping tends to the more pedestrian. I hate the waste of buying paper, preferring to salvage crinkly brown paper and newsprint and ivory tissue and even a seed catalog with an old-fashioned feel. And I’ve given up on ribbons, in favor of Japanese masking tape, patterns of red and green – loving its duality as both decoration and adhesive.

[A digression: Santa doesn’t use kraft paper and fancy tape. Santa uses real wrapping paper and bows. But, Santa is only responsible for the presents for the one eight year old girl. It is a line in the sand, as it were.]

A couple of weeks ago, I read a book review of a book I just had to have. I mean, I was drooling over the excerpt I downloaded to my Kindle (well, the Kindle app on my iPad if you want to split hairs), but it was the kind of book that I wanted to have and to hold, to dog-ear and splatter-stain. So in a little fit of I-deserve-this, I bought it for myself for Christmas. I figured I’d wrap it up and stuff it under the Christmas tree, to me, love me.

Last night was wrapping night. I sequestered myself in the cellar and set to work. Wrap, wrap, wrap. Check it off the list. Put it in the box. Wrap, wrap, wrap some more. I came to the book I’d bought myself. I wrapped it in Santa paper. My eye fell on the gold box of my mother’s tags. Half wistfully, half mischievously, I fished out a tag and snapped it round the book. Done.

It is truly one of the most peculiar things I’ve ever done, and yet, it was just right. I can’t wait to open it.

21 comments:

liz said...

That is beautiful.

Elissa said...

Your mother's wrapping of her gift to me of a year's New Yorker subscription when I was a young adult is forever etched in my mind. I think of her every time I struggle to make it through the whole magazine. She must have thought I could. May we all invoke your mother during the season!

thordora said...

I think that is perfectly perfect.

De said...

I bought myself a bamboo flute. Unfortunately, Fiona was with me, do it can't come from Santa.

Bibliomama said...

Love this.

alejna said...

I love this. I agree that it was just right.

We always reused wrapping paper and ribbons at my grandmother's house, but we weren't so systematic about the gift tags. I love that you have a box of tags written out to you.

Bron said...

I think of your mother a lot but particularly at Christmas. I think of her tree, her elegant presents, the flickering candles, etc. I was buying ornaments at Crate and Barrel the other day (have you seen their ornaments?? - they are addicting) and I wondered if your mother would like them. I only bought the ones that I thought would pass the test. :-)

slow panic said...

I think this is a wonderful thing you've done. I have a habit of picking up a few things for myself while I'm out present shopping this time of year, but I've never been patient or kind enough to myself to wrap it up.

Kyla said...

I love it!

Santa doesn't wrap gifts here, he assembles and leaves them out in front of the tree. This year we will have to tag things, since KayTar is getting gifts too big to wrap from both us and my parents in addition to whatever the big jolly guy brings.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Beyond love this -- why can't Stumble have something beyond a "thumbs up"? Everyone should give themselves a gift like this. Wrapped nicely.

leanne said...

Love it. All of it. The line in the sand, yes. But mostly that you bought something for yourself and wrapped. I've taken to buying myself fun socks and wrapping them to put into my stocking ("Santa" brings something for my husband, too -- this year it's a Packers t-shirt). It's one of my favorite parts of the shopping and wrapping experience.

MDTaz said...

Sometimes we scare me. The parallels and all. Funny how those simple but comforting things are still simple and comforting.

Mental P Mama said...

I would have snapped it on and then had myself a good cry. Ahhh the holidays....

meno said...

I don't find this peculiar at all, i find it sweet.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The sentimentalist in me loves that your mom (and you) have saved so much. The obsessive-compulsive anti-hoarder in me is not able to do it though.

What's the book?!

Janet said...

love your story...and Bron's comment :-)

The Absence of Alternatives said...

Nicely done! Enjoy Christmas morning when you open your special present. I love how you used the word "sequestered". That's what I did every year after we got to my parents-in-law's. I wish my family would allow me to use old newspapers as wrapping papers. I feel guilty every year about all the waste we create on Xmas morning...

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Anonymous said...

So what book is it?

painted maypole said...

something tells me your mother would love giving you this book

Gina said...

Santa's gift wrapping went WAY downhill after a second kid got thrown into the mix. Suddenly, the beautifully wrapped masterpieces looked more like "OMG there are how many to wrap? And just try finding a place and time to wrap without at least one kid sneaking around!"

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I make my own gift tags each year and never write my teens names on them but silly phrases or descriptors. My daughter's camera had the tag, To the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. My son had one that read "To the boy I love more than chupacabras." My husband's gift had a tag that read, "This is the best Christmas ever from the best first wife you ever had." I save those tags each year, to celebrate my quirky little self and the ones I love, ha ha ha.