As a kid we opened presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, visiting grandma's house on December 24 and waking up the next morning at grandpa's farm for more goodies.
In New York, we now open exclusively on Christmas Eve, primarily because Louise has the patience of a 2-year-old. It's a battle of wills just to keep her from ripping everything open a week before Christmas. I've accused her - and she's only offered vague and unconvincing denials in return - of actually opening up some of the presents when I'm not around and then re-wrapping them.
Actually, her denials probably are truthful, because it'd be impossible for her to recreate my wrapping, which has been the subject of mockery since the first time I presented her with a haphazardly taped, sloppily wrapped gift, which looked like it'd been put together by a dim-witted 5-year-old or an adult without opposable thumbs. My wrapping incompetence is the best defense I have against her opening up presents 10 days early.
I've never learned how to wrap a present properly. It's one of those skills that should have been picked up through simple repetition, but is impossible for me to learn. Sort of like how I still don't know how to blow a bubble with chewing gum. Or make a decent paper airplane.
I believe in the use of overwhelming force when wrapping a gift, beating it into submission through layers of decorated paper. Even if I'm simply wrapping a paperback book, I'll tear off enough paper to cover a TV. If there was a worldwide shortage of wrapping paper, I might reconsider the strategy. Folding down the top part, then the sides, I try my best to wrap it in such a way that it's impossible to guess what's hidden beneath. Whenever I see a wrapped gift from Louise or anyone else who has the dexterity to pull it off in a proper fashion, I always marvel at how little tape they use.
My god, the efficiency.
By the time I'm done, I'll have used maybe 15 pieces of tape, and even more have been lost during my pathetic battle. They are victims of my inability to properly tear it off the dispenser, so a one-inch piece gets tangled like a pretzel or ends up wrapped around my own finger instead of on the paper.
No matter how much paper I use, the inefficient wrapping ensures there's almost always a tiny opening where the present can still be viewed. Instead of perhaps altering my strategy, I'll simply rip off more paper to cover that spot. By this time I've grown frustrated, convinced the tape and paper somehow have a vendetta against me. Now I'm angrily taping, wrapping more and more paper around the tiny object, drowning it in layer after layer of snowman-covered material. Once finished, I now take pride in my accomplishment, holding it aloft, offering it up to the gods.
That's for square objects. Anything that's oddly shaped or soft or both of those things presents unique problems. Like a stuffed animal. Where do you even start? I start where I always do, with about 12 feet of paper, suffocating the cuddly beast. First the head, the torso, finishing with the feet. Because I don't want Louise to guess what it is, I'll add 10 more feet of paper. By the end, anything could be under that wrapping. All she'll feel is paper, when her fingers aren't getting stuck on the wayward tape that's popped up at different points.
Fortunately, not everything has to be wrapped. Now we have bags. Just stick the present in, close the bag and all wrapping worries vanish. But even those can cause problems. One of the presents I bought sort of fits in the largest bag we have, but not quite. Stumped, I debated stapling the top of the bag shut, but pictured the reaction from Louise: "Why didn't you just use the string to shut it?"
So that present got the wrapping treatment as well, a 20-minute exercise littered with curses and vows to take advantage of the gift-wrapping at all stores.
And now it sits under the tree, joined by its ugly siblings and the perfectly wrapped gifts from Louise, which are so well put together I almost feel guilty tearing the paper off. Now that I think about it, perhaps Louise's eagerness to open the presents has nothing to do with being excited about the gift. Maybe it has everything to do with ridding the world of my wrapping, at least for one more year.