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Marissa Lingen

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Christmas Eve: Getting Started a Little [Dec. 24th, 2010|06:38 am]
Marissa Lingen
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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.

[User Picture]From: matociquala
2010-12-24 01:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing that.
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[User Picture]From: ginny_t
2010-12-24 01:59 pm (UTC)
*_* This is a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it.
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[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2010-12-24 02:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can just see it! You make me miss him, too.
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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2010-12-24 06:24 pm (UTC)
That's wonderful. I'm glad you could say, this year.

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From: swan_tower
2010-12-24 06:57 pm (UTC)
Eheeheee. :-)

We open presents the same way (which utterly baffles kniedzw, who comes from a "free-for-all" kind of family) -- I wonder if it's a Minnesotan thing? But our Grandparent Effect was the reverse: my grandmother would carefully peel off the tape so as to avoid tearing the paper, and the result was that she took FOREEEEEEVER, which drove us crazy as children.

Especially since most of us tore paper with abandon, then wadded it up for the annual Christmas Basketball Game, wherein we chuck the wads at a trashcan on the far side of the room and mostly miss. Collecting the resulting mess happens after presents are done.
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[User Picture]From: brooksmoses
2010-12-24 07:48 pm (UTC)
Haha! Yes, all of this feels very familiar. I end up both tending to want to "get started a little", and definitely having a strong aversion to tearing the paper. (I usually try to be quick about it, though, except when I'm intentionally not -- for just a moment.)

I don't know where my family got this tradition from, but I don't think it came at all directly from Minnesota; we're all from Virginia and North Carolina mostly. I do like it a lot, especially as I get to the stage of mostly anticipating other people opening the presents I've given them.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2010-12-25 06:18 am (UTC)
Definitely not just a Minnesotan thing. My family does it too, and we're mostly Scots and Brits and Germans by way of half a dozen generations in Canada. I have no idea if most other local folks here do the same, though.

(We live across the country from any of my grandparents, so it was always just my immediate family at Christmas time. But my mother is just like your grandmother, in that she is incredibly picky about how she handles the unwrapping and takes forever and a day. She used to insist we follow the same careful no-ripping ritual but could rarely cow us into it. In fact, when we were little, my brother would sometimes get fed up and lean over and idly thwack the gift so that it shifted and the paper tore. That way we could say, "Well, it's torn anyway now! JUST OPEN THE DAMN THING.")

Edited at 2010-12-25 06:22 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-12-25 12:48 pm (UTC)
Your brother not being me, he is apparently able to restrain himself from saying, "well, that tears it."
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[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-12-25 12:10 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing that. I'm glad Christmas is improving from the past few years.

I am commanded by the Pirate Cats to pass Christmas greetings on to the lovely Miss Ista, with hopes for many dropped tasty bits.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-12-25 12:49 pm (UTC)
Dropped bits hah. Most of what Herself consumed yesterday was very carefully handed to her. But the wishes are thoroughly appreciated anyway.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2010-12-25 06:24 am (UTC)
Oh, Mris. Oh, Mris' Grandpa.
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[User Picture]From: mamapduck
2010-12-26 04:57 pm (UTC)
Hee! What a stinker. Ever notice how old people are often the most unrepentant about doing things they *know* are cheating? :)
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