By Christine Gunderson
This month we’re blogging about Christmas traditions. One of my favorite traditions started late at night in my bedroom closet.
I’d been kneeling for hours, surrounded by a chaotic pile of wrapping paper and toys. It was probably midnight, and I still had many presents to wrap before I could sleep.
Then, like Thomas Edison with a guttering candle or Henry Ford in a carriage pulled by a really slow horse, I muttered, “There must be a better way.”
And that’s when the idea came to me. A Present Wrapping Party.
I lifted my scissor in the air, raised my face to heaven and vowed that as God is my witness, I will never wrap presents alone again.
Instead of huddling in a closet late at night with a pile of toys and wrapping paper, I would send my family out of the house, invite friends over, spread the wrapping supplies on the kitchen table, push the furniture to the walls, provide food and drink and invite other moms to join me in wrapping our Christmas presents. We’d make it a party, instead of a dreaded chore.
And so we did. I enlisted a merry band of friends as co-conspirators and we were off and running. Our oldest children were in kindergarten the year we started the wrapping party. Now they’re masked high school freshman.
Our guests were mom-friends from school, and our party expanded as each child entered kindergarten. We made new friends and the party grew. We grew in other ways too, as we made the transition from fresh, spunky kindergarten moms to grizzled veterans with teenagers and the thousand-yard stares of women who’ve been asked to volunteer one too many times. But through it all, we wrapped together.
Friends arrived with giant rolling suitcases filled with unwrapped gifts. I bought wrapping paper on clearance after Christmas each year and pre-cut it into small, medium and large piles. We had scissors, tape, labels and pens, plus punch and my friend Andrea’s famous stuffed mushrooms. My friend Nicole provided mouthwatering bacon wrapped dates. We ate, we talked, we laughed, and we wrapped. It became my favorite event of the year.
I loved it because in addition to being practical and fun, it was something we moms did for each other, and moms need each other at Christmas time.
Because let’s face it, moms ARE Christmas. Those magical childhood memories are all on us. Finding the right gifts, making things special, wrapping the presents from everyone to everyone else, using different wrapping paper and handwriting for the Santa gifts vs the non-Santa gifts, moving that damn elf, ensuring that no one, including the dog, is disappointed on Christmas morning. This is what we signed up for, unwittingly in many cases, when we had children.
For Christians, Mary is the original mother who worked incredibly hard to give the world a wonderful Christmas. But for those of us who are not quite at the Virgin Mary’s level in terms of patience and perfection, there can be lot of pressure and stress involved in our attempts to give our children a fantastic Christmas. The Present Wrapping Party allowed us to share that burden, to laugh while we carried the load together.
Then Covid hit. There was no party this year for all the obvious, responsible, health-related reasons.
So yesterday I parked myself at a card table in the guest bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper and Amazon boxes and wrapped the presents alone with a book on tape for company. It was okay. Not a ton of fun. Zero laughter. But I’m hoping that next year the moms can join together again on the family room floor to laugh and wrap, supporting each other in our maternal quest to create a merry Christmas for the people we love.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher.