When I wrap family Christmas presents, I think of my mother, Jean, who taught me when I was about ten. Now there are YouTube videos. On the long side, fold over the edge of the top flap a half-inch so it will look square and apply two pieces of tape lengthwise. On the ends, carefully tuck in the extra paper and fold it into a flat arrow, with no bulging or bunching. Except with books and, in the old days, CDs and LPs, getting the ends right evades me. My packages usually look like the starboard side of the Titanic.
I used to trade off between the two ways Jean taught me to put on ribbon, diagonal across two corners or squared off and tied on the top in the center, like a parcel at a movie post office. Maybe 20 years ago, I gave all that up in favor of stick-on bows. My godfather, Louis, who wrapped his packages as tight as a soldier’s bed, never used ribbons or bows. I followed his lead for the first time this year. Maybe I’m worried about what happens to all those pre-made bows. Or maybe I got lazy. Thanks to Kathy Hannigan O’Connor, this year’s advancement in the wrapping arts is a roll of peel-off gifts labels with, at long last, enough room to write someone’s name legibly.
As usual, while wrapping I drank coffee and listened to Christmas music, although Bluetooth kept sending the signal to my hearing aids instead of the speaker. Not a problem back in Detroit, when we played the Kingston Trio and John Gary Christmas albums on a mono record player Louis built from scratch. This year, the younger people in the family expressed a strong preference for cash equivalents, but I couldn’t not get them at least a few things to wrap. Nagged by childhood memories of people expressing disappointment at their gifts, I always worry If I got enough or if people will like it. For a couple of things this year, as they’re opened, I’ll say, “I’m not sure about this one, but don’t worry, I have the receipt!”
And yet deep down, I know it will be fine. Kathy has everyone covered, too, anyway. If I’m looking for an extra for someone, she puts her finger in the air and pulls it out of a bag. I’m going to suggest that she make a YouTube video explaining how she does that — how she always makes Christmas just perfect for everyone.