December 17th, 2009

The tasks of Christmas

(1) Presents purchased. Check.

(2) Presents wrapped. Check.

(3) Presents mailed. Unchecked—but about to be done this afternoon, when I will brave the post office lines.

A few observations:

(a) Wrapping paper always seems an odd thing to me—a completely frivolous and yet somehow necessary covering for the naked gifts. I used to wrap very carefully, including the ribbon that curls so nicely when placed in quick and skillful contact with the edge of a scissors. Although now I’ve simplified my life by mostly obliterating that little detail, whenever I do curl the ribbon I remember how, as a little girl, I would watch the adults do it and yearn for the day when I had that much knowledge and coordination. It took a while to learn, something like the tying of shoelaces, but I finally mastered it.

(b) Getting gifts for little children is much more fun than getting gifts for most grownups. But with the latter, every now and then one thinks of the perfect present, and that’s a very satisfying thing, an instance when one feels the truth of the old adage that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

20 Responses to “The tasks of Christmas”

  1. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Remember there are enough members of the geek squad here who were fascinated by the science, not the aesthetics of those ribbons. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

    The geometry of wrapping gifts – much less interesting, unless you were into sight-estimating where the edges were going to end up and then seeing if you were right.

  2. Bill Says:

    “Getting gifts for little children is much more fun than getting gifts for most grownups.”


    The little fartlings will tell you what they want (you may complain about the greed of it all, but at least they’re decent contractors – clearly stating their requirements and walking away for you to make it happen). Adults around me, including myself, either say, “Oh… just get anything” or “I’m fine, I don’t need anything”. I had to take thumbscrews to my wife for her to tell me what gifts she’d tolerate this year… Me… not so much.

  3. Fausta Says:

    I have yet to master the curling ribbon, so finally gave up on it totally.

  4. expat Says:

    My husband just asked for some baked custard with hot rasberry sauce for Christmas. Did I pick wisely or what?

  5. csimon Says:

    neo — (and for all those out there who still have yet to do gift mailing)

    Forgot the lines at post office!!! Don’t all U.S. Post Offices now have those miracle self-help little kiosk/machines???!!!! Here in NYC, not only does my local USPO have these in post office proper, but outside of bldg. has little vestibule w/ 3 of these miracle machines (much like ATM vestibules). These are accessible 24/7, 365 days/year. Unless your pkg. is gigantic, you just purchase postage (touch screen guides you all the way & scale area has L x W x H rulers to verify pkg. dimensions) for mailing and any add’l desired services (insurance, confirmation of receipt notification – everything is neatly bar-coded on printed postage sticker) One can mail regular, Priority or Express. Then one dumps pkg.(s) in a big container after which pkgs. are collected numerous times daily. Sort of like giant mail box.

    If your local post office does not have even 1 of these machines, definitely inquire as to closest location that does. It is absolutely worth a little more gas! Rarely does one have to wait more than 5 minutes, as ea. transaction takes a fraction of that!

  6. Kae Arby Says:

    Getting gifts for little children is much more fun than getting gifts for most grownups.

    I’ll agree on the little kids part. It was alway a joy to see their eyes light up as they unwrapped their latest noise toy. As much fun was the icy stare that my brothers (and sisters in law) gave me as they expressed their appreciation for my gift. Once those kids reached around 8 years old, however, that small pleasure fades away and I’m left scratching my head over the latest fads of today youth. After that age I just give them money.

    I do, however, greatly enjoy getting gifts for gownups; so much so that I make a rule that I do not give money, gift cards, or gift certificates as gifts. The pleasure I get is in the hunt of trying to find the right gift for each person or couple.

    Anyway, it might be a week early, but everybody have a merry Christmas.

  7. csimon Says:

    Fausta — My late afternoon activity was curling dozens of ribbon ends for stocking stuffers for my 5-yr. old niece.

    Closest to end of ribbon where tied on, place one blade edge to underside of ribbon (if both sides of ribbon appear the same, they are, and either side will work!). Place thumb atop ribbon atop blade edge, pull firmly up and out sliding thumb and scissor edge along ribbon. Voila! Curls. So much bang for so little bucks. No real creativity required save choosing colors of ribbon. Fast, easy and so effective. (Ever so much easier than curling my hair!)
    (Although I must admit, these days, the political landscape and daily news should be sufficient to metaphorically, at least, do that nicely!)

  8. rickl Says:

    Getting gifts for little children is much more fun than getting gifts for most grownups.

    I don’t have much in the way of family. My relatives are scattered around the country and we just exchange cards.

    My friends are mostly liberals. While I’d like to buy them conservative books to read, I’ve tried that before and it pretty much fell flat. So nowadays I just buy them gift cards at bookstores.

    But my bank has a Toys for Tots dropoff bin, and for the last few years I’ve bought a few toys to take there when I go to the bank after work on Fridays during December. It’s pretty neat shopping at toy stores during the Christmas season without feeling any pressure whatsoever. I don’t worry about fighting other shoppers for this year’s hottest toy. I look for the kinds of things I would have wanted way back when and buy them. For example, tonight I bought a stuffed dog, a Play-Doh set, a Navy Seals boat, and a 10-in-1 game set (chess, checkers, backgammon, Chinese checkers, dominoes, and more).

  9. nyo Says:

    I turned two cans of Sunkist soda into a fairly decent present. I designed a cool pattern in Photoshop and printed it on single 24′ x 24′ matt paper, took some heavy stock parchment colored paper and make a outside “from me” card and inked it with a fine tip sharpy, then hand drew a picture of a Christmas tree and a white Yorkie dog with a candy can in his mouth, scanned it and added some color in photoshop and printed it for an “inside the package” card that read, “Please access my humble gift” — It was very humble but I was proud of it. 🙂

  10. betsybounds Says:

    The most gift-buying fun I had this year was getting stuff for a foster child in a neighboring county, an effort that is headed up each year by one of the ladies where I work. She puts up a bunch of angel cut-outs, blue and pink ones (you can guess what that signifies!), each with a child’s name on it, along with a list of the child’s needs and desires. I chose a 9-year-old boy who said he loves the Harry Potter books, drawing materials, and listed his clothing sizes. Well. I got him all the books, hard-cover, a sketch pad with colored and varying hardness black pencils, eraser, and sharpener, and some shirts and pants. My husband (an over-the-road truck driver) and out kids will all be home for Christmas, and I’ve had fun getting things for them, but the most fun by far was getting stuff for 9-year-old Ivan. I hate wrapping, so left that to the Wrapping Committee ladies. But I’m a Harry Potter nut, and I just wish I could be there when he opens his books! They’re so very wonderful. It’s a great blessing to have been able to give–to someone who values it–Magic for Christmas!

  11. betsybounds Says:

    I meant our kids, not out kids–of course!

  12. Gordon Says:

    Coordination is a funny thing. Since I’m a boy, I never really wanted to curl ribbons (but I can!). I used to watch the electricians stripping wire by pinching the sheath between the ball of their thumb and a knife. I could never figure out how they did that without cutting themselves.

    I still can’t do it. But now they make wire strippers, so I’m good.

  13. camojack Says:

    (1) Presents purchased. (Mostly, yes)
    (2) Presents wrapped. (Mostly…no)
    (3) Presents mailed. (A few; but I mailed ’em in gift wrap with only a couple of labels for destination/return address and postage stamps on them)

  14. Nolanimrod Says:

    Wow! Neo, you’ve done it once again. I remember my mother curling ribbon and thinking (me, not my mother) it magic so clearly. When I finally got it right I felt like I was on top of the world (ma).

    Merry Christmas.

  15. Nolanimrod Says:

    P.S. Betsy – we knew that. Welcome to the Nolanimrod school of comment-butchering. And Merry Christmas. To you and your adoptees.

  16. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Betsy, that warms my heart. I’m happy just thinking of that boy opening those books. thanks!

  17. E Says:

    I’m a big fan of grosgrain ribbon rather than the curling kind. Every gift looks classy with a grosgrain bow. If you want to be fancy, tie the bow and then fold each loose end in half lengthwise, and snip a diagonal cut to the center of the fold so that the ends have a cool notched cut and – voila! Instant class!

    The best part is that you can whisk the grosgrain ribbon back from presents opened at your house, and stick them in a drawer for next time you’re wrapping something. My Yankee thrift (use it up, wear it out) erupts even in gift-wrapping.

  18. E Says:

    Wow, say that last sentence ten times fast!

  19. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Fun memories!

    When I was a boy, wrapping paper was hard to find for us… so my mother got in the habit of using the funny pages from the newspaper. Later on, we’d use the newspaper’s news sections… and it got to be sort of a challenge to wrap with a relevant story showing.

    In re what to get for difficult recipients: try to persuade them (for next year!) to get an wish list. It doesn’t cost anything, and they can spend the rest of the year seeing something cool on amazon, saying “that would be nice”, and adding to the wish list. So they maintain a list of what they want, and other people can peruse the list for gifts they feel like giving. Win-win.

    (That fell through for me last year, when my oldest girl wanted to get me something from the list — but refused to buy from Amazon. She kept saying she’d go to the store to get it for me. I had to point out that, had she ordered from Amazon, it would have gotten to me a lot sooner. Oh, well.)

  20. njcommuter Says:

    This gives me an excuse to hold forth a bit. People tell me that my gift-wrapped presents always are the most handsome they receive. This must be an exaggeration, but I do have a “secret.” I keep a stock of paper from year to year such that I can match the pattern of the paper to the size (and shape) of the gift. Sometimes quite cheap paper will look very good on a package of the right size. The trick is to let the pattern repeat completely, but not too many times. Geometrics, foliage, and quasiregular patterns like dense paiselies can be repeated more often; floral patterns can be striking if they violate the rule, but not by too much. I also try not to use a paper for more than one package in a given year.

    I do occasionally buy an expensive roll to keep in the mix (and it’s getting harder to find one I want to buy). Don’t try to buy it all in one place or at one time; look for the one or two that are quietly better than all the rest.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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