With apologies to Paul Simon, there must be 50 ways to wreck your wrapping. And I know them all.
Just cut it too short, Mort.
Tie the tape in a ball, Paul.
Make it crude and uneven, Stephen, and listen to me …
You get the idea.
To be fair, my periodic battles with tape, scissors and brightly colored paper have become more hopeful over the years. With much fussing, cussing and desperate prayer, I can finally produce a package that looks like it was wrapped by a 10-year-old. With a blindfold. In the final car of a roller coaster. Hey, it’s progress!
So yes, I have a signature style. So much so that when the bookstore I worked at offered free gift wrapping at Christmas, I was asked to stay at the register. It seems that at “free,” my wrapping was still overpriced.
Every year, someone suggests gift bags. Every year, I refuse to surrender.
And every year, the week after Christmas becomes the most magical time of all.
It’s weird to write that because I’m not a huge New Year’s guy. Even before COVID-19, I didn’t hit the parties. I rarely do resolutions. I definitely stay up ‘til midnight, but I’ve never needed the excuse of Dec. 31 to do that, just a night owl’s instincts.
But in an odd way, that last week of the year is a microcosm of what’s about to come.
Start with Christmas Day. The time leading up to it builds with anticipation, curiosity, even anxiety. The holiday’s offerings lie hidden behind boxes and paper. The presentation may be beautiful or clumsy, but it gives only the broadest hint of what lies ahead.
But come Dec. 26, the wrapping no longer matters. By the time you’ve torn into it, all you remember is what was inside. Over those next few days, anticipation is replaced by experience.
And then we get to unwrap one more gift. The biggest one of all.
We’ve got a whole year ahead of us, wrapped away, out of sight. After the last couple, many of us are hesitant to poke the package. (At least, not without a mask and some Clorox wipes.) Don’t predict, we’re told. Don’t project. Just take a breath, walk ahead carefully, and try not to break anything.
I understand the worries. Heck, I share a lot of them. But one way or another, the box will open. The bag will be cast aside. And the hopes and fears that we wrapped 2022 in will give way to the reality.
No, we don’t get a receipt. (“Hello, customer service? Someone broke my 2021 in delivery; do you give store credit?”) In the case of this present, we’re both giver and receiver. We have to do the best we can with what we get … and that includes giving the best we have in us to make it better for everyone.
It’s demanding. It’s difficult. And it carries no guarantees. But if we keep at it, we can be the best present that someone else has ever received.
If enough of us do that, then 2022 becomes a gift worth getting, no matter what crises and challenges may lie ahead.
So best wishes to all of you for the New Year. Thanks for visiting here each week. I’ll keep the light on for you.
Assuming I can untangle myself from this wrapping paper first.