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…Three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember when department stores had gift wrap departments. At Macy’s and Emporium, samples of beautifully wrapped boxes for all occasions were displayed on the wall behind the counter. I’d watch enraptured as the lady folded the whispery tissue to fit the box and then tear a sheet of beautiful paper from a giant roller. 

Gilded gold leaves and baby rattles, spools of colorful slinky ribbon and tiny gift enclosure cares. I loved it all.

Maybe that’s where my obsession with wrapping packages started.

I worked part-time during the holdiays for a store that offered complimentary gift wrap. They had gorgeous, heavy stock wrapping paper and given their prices, they should. 

Complimentary is a nice word for free. And when something is free, it flips a switch inside one’s head.

Did you say free?

But some people take advantage. I think there’s a special place in Hell for people who buy fifteen cheese spreaders off the sale table for two bucks a piece and want them gift wrapped…individually. 

And they want it tout de suite…doesn’t immediately sound better in French?

Telling a customer there will be an hour wait for complimentary gift wrapping elicited all kinds of responses. Yes, you can imagine, but like every other store in the mall during the holiday frenzy, we were mobbed with customers. 

There was gift wrap standard. The outer edge of the paper had to be folded and aligned with the bottom edge of the box. Double-stick tape only. We used grosgrain ribbon, trimmed at an angle, and secured with it a sticker bearing the store’s logo. If the wrap job wasn’t up to par, it was sent back.

The customers on the sales floor weren’t the only people experiencing major meltdowns. We had our share of sales associates who’d burst into tears after being told they will wrap no more. 

Knowing how to wrap was a huge plus. Wrapping at warp speed while adhering to the standard, even better. 

I spent a lot of hours at the wrap desk. I wrapped so fast that after I finished my shift one day, I realized the gum I’d been chewing was…missing. I didn’t remember tossing it out. I could only surmise that it ended up in a cloud of cream tissue paper and perhaps someone got a little extra something for Christmas.

I wrapped twelve gifts tonight. I wrap as they arrive on the doorstep. I challenge myself to be creative. I’ve used popcorn boxes, takeout cartons (um, they were clean and unused) and even re-used those plastic mesh bags you see at the market for lemons and avocados. With the right color tissue paper, it looks pretty cool. Chinese language newspapers with a red ribbon, tea towels tied up with rick-rack and brown craft paper are among my favorites. Corsage bags from the Flower Mart are great for gifts and baked goods.

Are you looking forward to wrapping your holiday gifts? Any innovative wrapping ideas you’d like to share?