By Maria Lagalante Schulz
There are some things about Christmas that I really love—in theory. For instance, I love the idea of going into Manhattan and seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center. I love the prospect of going on a carriage ride around Central Park. I love the idea of seeing all of the windows along 5th Avenue and maybe even seeing Santa Claus at Macy’s in Herald Square.
But here’s the reality: when I do go into Manhattan to see the tree, I’m overwhelmed by the crush of people walking aimlessly into me or running my feet over with strollers. The amount of time I actually spend looking at the tree dwarfs in comparison to the length of time it takes to get close to it.
I have played the tourist and taken a ride around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage, but it was absolutely freezing and the
horse smelled. Likewise, I’ve stood in line with a million other people to gaze at the windows on 5th Avenue and I even got in to see Santa in Macy’s at Herald Square a few times. All of this was fun, especially when it was over.
Most of all, I think my favorite “theoretical” thing to do at Christmas time is wrap gifts. I can see what every gift is going to look like in my fantasy: a wonderland of ribbons, bows, perfectly straight seams and corners, and whimsical gift wrap chosen specifically for the person whose gift I’m wrapping.
But what really happens? I’m usually in a wrapping induced lather, lunging for any old roll of paper I can find (so what if it’s get well paper? Who cares? I have to finish!) Empty or broken tape dispensers lay around me like old tires in a dump, and it’s usually about 4 in the morning before I go to bed…for two hours.
When I was a kid, my mother would gather all of her gifts together about a week before Christmas, set them out on the dining room table, and ask for help. With nine people in the family, plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, there were about a million gifts sitting there, just waiting to get wrapped.
We’d put on some music and get started. Eventually, the pile would dwindle, but it took many days and man-hours before we made a dent in it. To this day, the sight of a pile of unwrapped gifts makes me think of my mother–and have a minor panic attack.
I spent many years working in a department store, and the one department that I despised more than any other was Gift Wrapping. I completely understood why people were mad at me when they handed over their beautiful gifts and I fumbled with the store paper, trying to make the gift look at least presentable. I’d curl the ribbons and tie the bows, but they always looked limp and sorry. The best part of all was when the customer would point up to the display area, at a box that was probably wrapped by Michelangelo, and say to me: “I want my gift to look like that.”
Cold beads of sweat would roll down my forehead while I prayed that the real gift wrap lady would get back from her break already, before I handed the customer my “masterpiece,” or at least before the screaming started.
There was nothing like working in a department store to make a person hate wrapping gifts. I never understood why the gift wrap ladies all chain smoked and drank gallons of coffee until I made the mistake of going over there, smokeless and under-caffeinated.
So, for those of you like me who are “wrapping challenged,” here are some tips and tricks to help you deal with the little-known Christmas malady, WIPTSS (Wrapping Induced Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).
22 Ways to Avoid WIPTSS:
- Meet The Dollar Store: your one true friend. Go there and stock up on the cheapest wrapping supplies you can lay your hands on
- Never forget: Gift Bags are God’s gift to the uncoordinated
- Remember: A.B.T. (Always Buy Tape)
- Curling ribbon is not a life skill. If you can do it—great! If not, join the club
- Aluminum foil is shiny and no scissors are required
- Should you chose not to go the aluminum foil route, make sure to place scissors strategically around the house
- Expect to be unable to find any scissors in any of your strategic locations at any time
- Patronize stores that say joyful things like, “Can I wrap that for you—for free?”
- Never do today what you can put off until December 24th.
10. Brush up on physics; it is usually not wise to buy large, oddly shaped boxes and only one roll of wrapping paper. For instance, the Barbie Town House requires at least 2 or 3 rolls
11. Just because it says you can wrap 1 robe and 3 dress shirt boxes with one roll of wrapping paper doesn’t mean that you actually can
13. Likewise, print out labels or use your non-writing hand when doing gift tags or your smart aleck kid will say, “Santa has the same handwriting as you!”
14. Stick with rectangular gifts, books, shirts in clothing boxes, gloves, picture frames, or games if you want your gifts to look halfway decent
15. Surrender gracefully when your gift refuses all attempts at being wrapped. That’s what bows are for.
16. Resist the urge to buy that fancy, thin, foil wrapping paper. Unlike aluminum foil, it costs way too much and it will definitely rip (probably just as you finish wrapping the gift). Expensive foil wrapping paper is known to cause the next stage after WIPTSS, which is WIPTP (Wrapping Induced Post Traumatic Psychosis)
17. Never compete with gift-wrapping goddesses. They are obviously just neat-freak zombies who do everything perfectly. Do you want to have your brains sucked out so you can wrap gifts perfectly? I don’t think so.
19. Go green. Or appear to go green because it’s too late to use the non-green gift-wrap you really want and all the stores all closed. You can use newspapers, tissue paper, scraps of wrapping paper taped together, construction paper, even paper towels. Also see gift bags and aluminum foil, above
20. Put on some Christmas music. Everything seems better when “Christmas Wrapping” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” are on
21. Eat something. Christmas cookies are known to soothe the spirits of even the most delirious sufferers of WIPTSS.
22. Have a drink. It’s the magical way to see all of your gifts as a wonderland of ribbons, bows, perfectly straight seams and corners, and whimsical, personalized gift-wrap—even if all you used was butcher paper, duct tape and twine.
Wrapping gifts always makes me hungry, thirsty, and maybe just a little crazy. Here’s a little something to get you through the rough patches.
Amaretto Fudge Cappuccino Recipe
P.S. If you’re really stressed, you can just add a shot of Amaretto to your own coffee and open a box of your favorite cookies. Enjoy!
So, do you have a funny story to share about your own Christmas stressors? Please leave a comment and let us all in on the fun.