When was it that i learned how to tuck the corners in so deftly? This is the first year that i’ve been good enough to warrant the question; the first time that i haven’t hollered frantically for Erika to hold down the folds for me while i taped them. I remember how i used to do it not so long ago, wrapping paper around and around a box and then practically fashioning a bow out of scotch tape to hold it all down. I hated wrapping, and i hated wrapped presented. I told my mother not to bother; “Why use all that time and paper,” i said, “just so i can rip it open?”
When did i start to thrill in surprise? High school’s last Christmas Anastasia and i sat on her floor with empty shoe-boxes and packages of tissue paper trying to decide how to best obscure our killer compact discs. I taped mine down in a goloshes box and covered it with layers of tissue while she created a protective exoskelton to protect the tell-tale shape of her jewel case. Still that mass of paper, still that scotch tape bow, but i understood something about the thrill of surprise; it wasn’t enough just to buy, but to keep guessing until the last possible second.
When did i make it my own? Last Christmas i got a few excellent gifts, but i was more intent on giving. Elise helped me hunt down a wonderful list of bottle stops, DVD players, chess sets, Dr. Seuss Books, and Guiness playing cards in a whirlwind weekend while i slowly amassed her own pile of presents solo. I shopped fearlessly into late December not because i was fearless, but because i was no longer celebrating the same holiday as the people in the line in front of me. When all was said and done i had re-charged half of my credit card, but i was too happy doing it to stop. Christmas had finally stopped being a season, or an obligation — it was an excuse to give something to some of the people that i loved the most.
I almost forgot that this year, creating invisible, impractical, self-imposed timelines and deadlines for myself. Yet, as i lined up the pattern on the wrapping paper so perfectly a few minutes ago, as i cut out my own inventive little gift tags and wrote in the cards, i realized that i have come all the way around: from understanding the joy of surprise, to understanding the joy of the season, to understanding the joy of creating the surprise.
I will never submit myself to the Christmas celebrated by the people i stand in line with at the cash register. It isn’t about their idea, or my idea, or the cash register. It’s about liking the giving so much that you hardly care about what you get in return. It’s about liking it so much that you let it creep into March and September, buying things just because, so that when you look down your list sometimes you can say “i already gave them the perfect gift.”
But, it isn’t about my idea, and you’re giving me an excellent gift right now. Here’s to hoping your ideas are working out just as perfectly.