When desperation and compulsion meet, you usually don’t throw a party. In this case, it was exactly the right answer. Last fall, while talking about the upcoming holidays, my friend— a very competent woman who works full time and has three young kids— mentioned how difficult it was to find the time to wrap presents. She half-joked about telling her children that she was taking a shower, shutting the bathroom door, turning on the water and then frantically rushing through a task she used to enjoy. At that moment, I knew my obsession with giftwrap hadn’t been for naught.
Admitting in print that I have 60-plus rolls of wrapping paper in my attic isn’t easy. Amassing such a stash is. I rejoice when it’s wrapping paper fund-raising season at local schools. (The companies should pre-print my name on the forms.) Forget Black Friday. My favorite shopping day is Dec. 26 when I head for the stationery boutiques and drugstore chains to forage through discounted gift bags and rolls of plaid, wired ribbon. But the best part is wrapping the gifts, holiday tunes cranked, a cup of hot chocolate at my side. In the past few years, though, I, too, found myself wrapping furtively in a quiet corner of the house once my son had gone to bed.
Last year, on a Sunday evening in mid-December, I invited as many female neighbors and friends with young kids as could fit in my Rodgers Forge townhome for a Present Wrapping Party. I gave ample notice to those who traditionally shop at the last minute and requested that everyone bring their unwrapped gifts and a roll of paper to share, if they’d like. The guest list was strictly no kids, and my husband and son used the time to do their own Christmas shopping.
Centerpieces were buckets and baskets of all accouterments— tape, ribbon, tags and scissors— scattered on nearly every work surface in the house. In the kitchen, I set up a casual buffet of smoked turkey and ham, rolls and a cold rice salad (from Eddie’s on North Charles Street), complemented by friends’ contributions of a green salad and wonderful holiday cookies. Rolls and rolls of paper stood at the ready, Johnny Mathis in the background singing of sleigh bells while I waited for the minivans to arrive.
About 20 women came and went during the evening, some wrapping just a few boxes while others tackled several bags’ worth. The wine and Diet Coke flowed. It was noisy, crowded, and a whole lot of fun. As guests were leaving, several asked if the party would be an annual thing, and even more laughed at the ironed ribbons I had set out, obviously saved from past years. For this year’s party, I’m dipping into my giftwrap archives for the heavy gold foil paper my mom has been hoarding since the ’70s. The 30-year-old crease marks should press right out.