Here it is, the night before Christmas. I had the presents I bought for all the various, sundry, and extra-sundry family members wrapped almost a week ago. They were packed and ready for travel in their festive casings. For I am a fine present wrapper.
Now, the night before Christmas, new gifts are appearing. My tradition-defyingly-nice mother-in-law and multiple sisters-in-law are stuck with, besides excessive hyphenation, unwrapped presents. Either last minute purchases or gifts bought long ago and hidden away until their absence was noted under the tree... They all need to be wrapped. And so they come to me, the present wrapper.
It is not uncommon that people comment on my present wrapping prowess. A good acquaintance, passing as he was the morning hours in our parlor, noticed the neat corners on my serried stack of packages. He complimented me on my bows and I explained that I crafted them by hand. I explained that I was a present wrapper.
Yes, even recipients will offer comment on their lovely gifts. "How much friggin' scotch tape did you use on this thing!?!" being a common utterance. But the tape cannot be quantified in yards, cubits, fathoms, or furlongs. It is merely "enough" tape, as judged by a present wrapper.
For it is in the trade skills to know how to ensure that the cadeaux stay closed, the bows stay bound, and the tags stay tight. The job ends only when the gift arrives in the hands of its final recipient, not when it leaves the hands of the present wrapper.
And the package must be perpetually kept in its holiday postcard perfection. No matter how it must travel, through the hands of journeying relatives, relayed as a baton in a seasonal race. Even, powers forfend, mailed through the postal service. The gift must be braced for the worst. It must be reinforced should the direst eventuality arise: it is a carried overland through the mountains via mule train. This helps to explain why such amounts of tape are used by a present wrapper.
But I was not always a present wrapper. I used to scoff at the great wrapping traditions. My packages would be little more than the item itself with a single manufactured bow clinging desperately to the slick shrink wrap. I would stuff gifts into holiday sacks, considering them to be wrapped. They did not sit and glow under the Christmas tree, they merely slouched beneath a pine. My father chided me for these eyesores. And he was right to do so, for he was a present wrapper.
He was the reknowned far and wide for his wrapping ability. Crowds would gather as he worked in by the front window of our house, his hands a blur as he worked with the ribbons and papers. A stack of unassuming brown boxes on his right would be whisked one by one upon the table, rolled within paper, bound, and carefully added to the stack of presents on his left. Rolls of reticulated ribbon would be transformed in an eyeblink into piles of curling bows. He was a present wrapper.
People would come from miles around during the season to present him with their most troublesome presents. Packages of odd shapes and sizes. Skis, canes, vases, and baskets. Gifts that had befuddled the minds of ordinary holiday shoppers, their minds dulled by incessant insipid carols. But my father was quick-witted and could always find the angle at which to fold the paper, the corner at which to tuck and seal, the circle in need of the ribbon. Throughout the land he was known as the present wrapper.
Until the fateful day when some mendicant came with a glass containing some water, pretending to seek wrapping aid. My father, not seeing the glass to be half-full, started to work. But as he handled the glass and turned it, the water poured out, soaking his table of wrapping paper as the people laughed. His spirit was crushed. For people no longer saw him as a benevolent artisan, but merely as a sphinx to be challenged and beaten. He vowed he would no longer be a present wrapper.
But I could not bear such injustice. I decided to take up his mantle to prove to people what wrapping was really about. I had learned the skills in the years at his side; the craft was passed from father to son. I became a present wrapper in the hopes that someday people would accept the great tradition and, perhaps, some future winter, my father would again take up the famous ribbon and scissors.
I am not the present wrapper, I am the present wrapper's son. I am only wrapping presents until the present wrapper comes.