Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pretty Paper

Every year at Christmas, I find myself being the official present wrapper for almost every present that is not for me. This is not limited to my immediate family, but my parents, too. It is not unusual for my dad to pull me aside the day before the gift giving and he will show me his stash for my mom and he always has a question for me. "Will you wrap your mother's presents?" I never just say, "Sure Dad." I usually make faces, act like I have been punished, to which he will wink and smile because he knows I will wrap his gifts. It's a little ritual we go through. He and I have some gift giving history.

When I was a child, we lived for a few years in Lubbock, Texas. My mother was a housewife. Before Christmas, my mother would take me shopping with her and we would at some point end up in Dunlaps Dept. Store. I remember Dunlaps having very nice clothes, shoes, jewelry, and perfume. Mom would take me to the department where there was something that had caught her eye for my dad to buy her for Christmas. I learned at a very early age the nuances of different Christian Dior perfumes. I could pick out Daniel Green "house shoes" from the shoe department. And by the age of eight, I knew what cameos were. It was shopping school and I was a willing little student! A week before Christmas, Dad, Gary, and I would go Christmas shopping for Mom. We would traipse into Dunlaps and I would lead the guys to her favorites. Dad usually followed my lead but he always liked to have a little surprise that she wasn't anticipating. Like a red pants suit. (Dad loves red.) A few purchases later, we would take her gifts to the gift wrap department, choose a lovely wrap with a bow or decoration, and then we would make a big production of trying to hide it behind all the other gifts under the tree. On Christmas morning, there would be her beautifully wrapped gifts and she would exclaim that they were so lovely, but why were we spending money on gift wrap. Every year, she would set aside the bows and decorations so they could be saved along with the gift boxes. (There were years some of our boxes had to be ten years old or older!) A week or so after Christmas, she would take the red pant suit back. She likes purple.

Years meant moves and this little tradition continued for Dad and me. In Houston, it was Foleys or Battlesteins. In Oklahoma City and Tulsa, it was Dillards Brown-Dunkin. In Little Rock, it was Dillards and Cohns. Back to Houston and Foleys in 1977. No matter where we were, we took an evening and shopped for Mom. Every year, there were lovely packages from Dad for Mom.

My first job was wrapping gifts at Dillards in Little Rock in the evenings and on weekends during the holiday season. I learned the ins and outs of wrapping quickly, storing gift receipts and tags in an envelope for the buyer, and how not to waste paper by measuring efficiently. I was paid minimum wage and on the evening of December 24, my job was over. I was allowed to wrap my own presents at the store and we were allowed to take home the "odd gift wrap" that wasn't very popular. There were a few years Hanukkah wrapping paper was found under our Christmas tree because it just wasn't a big seller. My dad was one of my customers. He liked the idea of a company discount.

I left home in January, 1981 and moved to Arizona when I married Bosco. For years at Christmas, I dutifully wrapped our family's gifts, but as the years passed, the holiday season seemed more like a chore than what the season is supposed to represent. I did most of the shopping, most of the financial stressing, the shipping to our Texas family, and those pretty packages gave way to printed boxes. No tissue. No bows. Items wrangled into the boxes from Walmart and taped shut. No one seemed to notice. Then, gift bags came along. I moved from the printed boxes to gift bags. No tissue. No bows. Most were stapled or taped shut. You get the drift. Until my dad came. Then, I would carefully wrap my mother's presents, laying a sweater or blouse in tissue, measuring the good wrap I had hidden away, and a lovely hand tied bow on the outside.

When I retired, I decided that I would stop complaining about Christmas. I promised to embrace my gift giving with the love intended and I would wrap everyone's gifts with thought and consideration. So, I do still complain a little and I have put gift cards in those funny little holders. Yet, overall almost all the gifts coming from our home have been wrapped in pretty paper with a hand-tied bow on the top. This year, I tried very hard to focus on the love behind the gifts and to wrap them with care. It's like giving a little part of ourselves or our family.

We will not be in Houston on Christmas day and they are not coming to Arizona this year, so I don't know who will wrap his gifts for her. I wonder if there will be a red outfit for her to return. She still loves purple.

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

Crowded streets, busy feet hustle by you
Downtown shoppers Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won't pass him by

Should you stop better not much too busy
Better hurry my, my how time does fly
And in the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter he cries

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Oh, oh, pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

-Phillip Brooks

1 comment:

  1. I love this story. I am sorry that y'all wont be together. LOL I read this just after I finished wrapping stocking stuffers....over 60 of them. Next, the gifts. Why don't you come on over?!?!