There are many things that I did not know how to do when I was a kid, but that I assumed I would automatically be able to do once I grew up. They are little things, like folding laundry neatly and liking vegetables and reading books that are not from the middle grade section of the library.
I have since learned that this is not always the case. Age does not mean that you suddenly can do all the “grown-up things.”
One of these things for me is gift wrapping. My mom has this magical ability to make any present she wraps look cute. Her gifts are always wrapped neatly, the paper smooth and free of awkward folds. She can tie these decorative bows on them that look perfect every time. She also has an abundance of wrapping paper, ribbons, gift bags, and tape in her house, which means that she never runs out of supplies when she needs to wrap something in a hurry.
I am like my mom in a lot of ways. But I do not possess her magical gift-wrapping abilities.
Last Saturday, I was getting ready to go to a baby shower. I had procured a gift from my friend’s registry and was surprised by how large the box was, but glad that it was still light enough that I could carry it myself.
An hour or so before the shower, I sat down to wrap the present, feeling grown-up to be going to a baby shower and extra-prepared because I happened to have some wrapping paper lying around that looked sort of baby boyish. Yes, it was the only wrapping paper I’d bought in three years and had been using for birthday and Christmas gifts ever since, but that just meant I was good at conserving it. And I was sure it would be good for this occasion, too.
I set about to wrapping the present, using the last of my wrapping paper. But when I turned the box over, I realized that the paper would only cover half of the large, thin box.
I couldn’t bring a half-wrapped present to a baby shower! Even I knew that wouldn’t be good.
Ben, my husband, was leaving to run some errands, so I asked him if he’d grab some wrapping paper while he was gone. This he did, returning with two dollar-store rolls of wedding wrapping paper, because the dollar store didn’t have regular birthday wrapping paper for some reason. (I mean, really?)
I picked the striped paper, which seemed like the least wedding-y of the two, and got to work. I cut a large square of wrapping paper and covered one end of the box with no problem. Then I went to wrap the other end.
This was when I discovered a problem.
The dollar store wrapping paper only costs a dollar for a reason—it doesn’t come with a lot of wrapping paper.
The square I’d originally cut, thinking that it would fit the entire box, only fit half of the box. And when I unrolled the wrapping paper roll to cut more, I discovered that I was already out of paper.
But I had to forge ahead. It was too late to turn back now!
I took the remaining square of paper and tried to wrap it with the stripes running vertically across the box, the direction that I had already taped the first piece of paper to the box. What I didn’t realize was that the paper was not wide enough to cover the entire box when it ran in this direction, and it left a large, ugly piece of cardboard exposed on the back.
To cover the present, I would have to turn the paper the other way, so that the stripes were running horizontally across the box. I thought that this could be a bad idea, but I shrugged the thought away. It was just wrapping paper! There was no way that having the stripes run in different directions would stand out that much. Nobody would notice. Probably.
I started to fold the remaining paper over the box so that the stripes ran horizontally. This worked for about two seconds.
And then I ran out of Scotch tape.
I thought about going out to get more tape, but I didn’t have time. Briefly I thought of glue, but as luck would have it, we didn’t have that, either. (Good thing, too, or it would have made such a mess!)
What we did have was masking tape. As I pulled it out of my desk drawer, I had a suspicion that it probably wouldn’t look that great, but the present was already kind of ugly, and I was running out of options. Besides, I reasoned, the tape was black, and there were black stripes on the wrapping paper, so…maybe it would blend in?
I taped the remaining paper to the box with torn-off pieces of masking tape, trying to make the paper stretch as far as I could. Sure, it left a little bit of cardboard exposed, but it was the back of the box and didn’t have any pictures, so that part of the box may as well count for wrapping paper too, right?
I stuck the last piece of masking tape on, taped the card to the front, and stood back to look at the present, proud of my resourcefulness.
And then I realized that it didn’t look good.
It really didn’t look good. It was like the Ugly Stepsister of baby shower gifts.
This is what it looked like on the front.
And this is what it looked like on the back.
I didn’t have a ribbon or anything to disguise the stripes running in two directions, or the mess of tape and paper on the back.
And I was out of time.
Ben, who heard my dismayed “Oh, no,” came into the living room and saw what I’d done. I had thought that maybe he would reassure me that no one would notice what the present looked like among all the other ones and that of course I thought it looked bad because I was the one who had wrapped it, but no. He just started laughing.
All right, so it did look horrible.
But I was still going to walk out the door with it. It was all I had! And I didn’t know what else to do.
Ben seemed to think that I should deem this a lost cause, rip off the ruined striped paper, and try again with the other, more wedding-y roll of wrapping paper.
I of course resisted. I had to leave in just a few minutes! The other roll of paper was white—the masking tape would stand out! Though I supposed I could put long pieces of tape on the sides to make stripes…
But Ben (thankfully) had a different idea about how to wrap it. He unrolled the entire roll of paper, folded it around the box, and used rolled-up pieces of masking tape to go between the pieces of paper and hold the entire thing together without being visible. He did all of this in under five minutes, which meant that I was only five minutes late getting out the door.
It wasn’t the prettiest gift, but it looked much better than it would have if I had just taken it the way it was. And when I set it down on the table among the other gifts at the shower, it didn’t even stand out too much from the others. (I guess dollar-store wedding gift wrapping paper doesn’t really look like wedding gift wrapping paper.)
But I almost died when my friend picked it up, smiled, and said, “Wow Michela, what pretty wrapping paper! You did a great job of wrapping this.”
I decided not to tell her how I’d wrapped it until the next time I saw her.