Cambrian: Slice of Life

That's a wrap!

Last Christmas, I had a Eureka moment, a flash of eco-wrapping inspiration. Instead of using shiny colored paper for the gifts, I would “wrap” some of the larger ones, or collections of smaller ones, in spiffy reusable shopping bags.

I located some bags that weren’t too commercially obnoxious, dressed the bags up a bit with bows and signs, and added recyclable tissue paper in the top.

They looked really good. And, if you don’t count the time trying to find the bags, it’s so quick!

If I can find suitable bags this year, I’ll probably do it again.

But emotionally, bags just don’t replace wrapping. This is Christmas: I’m supposed to be covered with shavings of paper and curls of ribbon, with wads of tape stuck to my nose, fingers and chair. (I am the reigning 3-M Scotch Tape queen, after all.)

I’ve always loved wrapping gifts, even during our bakery-catering days when we couldn’t even start until close to midnight Christmas Eve, and we absolutely knew that the kids would be up, raring to go, by 4 or 5.It was a predictably mad scramble, with Christmas music playing and family members scattered throughout the house, each with a private gift horde to wrap, tag and be-ribbon. Someone would dash into the dining room, stage-whispering, “I’m out of tape! Do we have more?” or “Pssssst! Dad! Come ‘ere! Do you think Mom will like this?” or “Grandma, what’s a good tag for this? Oooops, we can’t let Grandpa see it!”

Tanner gift tags are supposed to be obscure and/or funny, you see, which takes extra time and effort, especially at 2 a.m., long after the brain has gone night-night.

The package stack under the tree grew to mountainous proportions. When the kids are young, there are big, big boxes. Ever tried to hide a bike, a basketball hoop, or heaven help us, a set of skis?

One year, we bought a large, two-story plastic jungle gym for granddaughter Chrissy, who was maybe a year or two old at the time.

The unassembled play structure came with instructions, which were as useless an icemaker in an igloo. It’s an unwritten law that all instructions on Christmas Eve cannot be of any help at all, and must obscure any obvious clues. Somehow, we managed to combine the parts into a reasonable facsimile of a jungle gym. But nobody could get the bottom floor supports to snap into the top floor.

A sledge hammer wasn’t an option.

Finally in desperation, my linebacker cousin John took a running, flying leap at the wobbly structure and landed, butt down, on top. “Snap, click, crunch” went the gym, as we all dissolved in giggles and mild hysterics. And whaddya know? It worked!

A few years later, granddaughters Chrissy, Tina and I began wrapping together for everybody else.

We’d see who could pull the gift wrap the tightest without tearing it, or who could tie the most outrageously elaborate bow. The packages were all gorgeous, of course, and we had a grand time, wrapping, bonding and making memories. And laughing, always laughing.

It was wonderful.

Now, Tina, is 34 and an insurance underwriter. Chrissy, 23, works at the same firm and attends college. They — like their cousins Kelsey, a cardiac-care nurse, teacher Dylan and stonemason Penn — are all so busy, at this time of year and all the time.

They have their own lives in Oregon, Nevada and Santa Barbara, which is how it should be. We’re enormously, button-poppingly proud of all of them.

We see them as often as we can, but the void without them is more poignant at this time of year, as it is on behalf of our younger grandgirls Caitlyn, Alyssa, Isabelle and Georgia, and our great grands Madison, Jillian and Holden.We miss them all, and their parents, too.

We’ll be with some of them for Christmas itself, and that sustains me now as I wrap. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful husband and family, and all those memories keeping me warm as I fold paper, tie ribbons and write tags.

Or put things in recyclable bags, as the case may be.

Happy holidays, everybody!