December 24th, 2010


Christmas Eve: Getting Started a Little

Last year at this time, Grandma was still in the hospital and we were working on getting her sprung for the holiday, which we did. And last year at this time, I was caught up enough in worry about Grandma and in the fresh grief of our first Christmas without Grandpa that I didn't say about Grandpa and unwrapping presents. So I think I will, since we are Christmas Eve present people, aside from stockings.

We have a strict present protocol that easily admits for additional people without a whimper: gifts are opened one at a time, going around those assembled youngest to oldest and then starting again with the youngest when everyone has had one. This is How We Do It, and Grandpa firmly supported this tradition with no hint of wanting things any different.

Except that it did take rather a long time to get around to his turn again.

So he would start by taking the bows off. Nobody could count taking the bows off as unwrapping presents! Why, you might not even put a bow on in the first place! So its removal did not count as un-wrapping, since the bow was not strictly necessary for wrapping!

In years past, he had a middle step that modern giftwrap took from him: he would ease the gift tag off. Mostly we use the sticker kind now, although this year I have a bunch I've taped on, and it's made me smile thinking of Grandpa and how he would have liked them better because it would have given him something to do: slitting the tape with his fingernails, carefully not tearing the tag so he could brandish it when his turn finally came around: "This one is from Deb and Dan," or, "Dave got me this one."

Then, if other people took too long to linger over admiring things he didn't care about--things that were not books, for example, although that wasn't all of it--he would start to slide his nail or his pocketknife through the tape on the ends of the package. Not unwrapping it! Just getting it started a little! So then when it was his turn, the paper would all come off in an immediate flourish, whoom!

And every year Mother and I would protest. "Daddy, cut that out! Come on, Pop!" "Grandpa, you cheated! Play fair, Grandpa!" And he would return fire on the protests. "I didn't open them! I just got them started a little!"

I think this is why he was given the job of collecting other people's torn and discarded wrapping paper: to slow down the process of "getting them started a little."

I'm off to get going on things so that I can have my Christmas Eve Day time with my dad before my Christmas Eve time with the rest of my side of the family. Hope that those of you who are celebrating Christmas Eve are having a good one, and the rest of you are having a happy Friday.