Monday, December 19, 2011

Unwrapping Joy

Everyone who knows me knows I have an unusual method of unwrapping gifts.

It drives everyone nuts at Christmas, but moreso at my birthday (I imagine because no one else has presents to distract them). Because when I unwrap gifts, I slice each little piece of tape carefully, precisely, purposefully, to avoid ripping the paper.

Do I save it when I'm finished? No.

Does it drive me nuts when other people deliberately rip the paper from their gifts, watching me intently as they do? Yes. (And how did you know Spousal Unit was behind that one? Reading my mind, you are.)

I've had relatives and friends alike resort to putting all their gifts in bags rather than wrapping them and sitting around for ten minutes while I cautiously excavate my prize. I don't blame them; I know it can get kind of obnoxious to wait for it. But here's why I do it.

I have many favorite things about Christmas. One is being with everyone, crowded into a tiny space and being way too loud and excited and full of sugar as carols play in the background. Another is watching someone totally and completely love a gift I've given.

But one thing I love is a bit more unusual: not the presents themselves, but the anticipation of them.

I love those moments before I know what a gift is. I love estimating the size, shape, weight, and trying to guess the color inside. I love not knowing, and having so much possibility run through my mind. In that moment before the gift is opened, anything in the world could be inside. Even if it's the size and shape of a calendar, there could still be a kitty inside. (Schroedinger's, if you will. Preferrably alive.)

In a way, the wondering and questioning are better than any present. The gifts I get on Christmas are always thoughtful and beautiful, but some part of me loves the imagining and the not knowing. That's why I love to draw it out by not ripping the paper, to make it last a little longer than it needs to.

In second grade, when I turned eight, I peeked at my presents the night before my birthday. I feigned surprise at them the next day, and I must have had an awful poker face, because Mom knew. She pulled out another present, one that hadn't been with the others. I hadn't known about that beautiful pair of earrings, and that made them the best gift, by comparison, because it had been a complete surprise. I enthusiastically promised I'd never peek again.

Since then, the surprise and the wonder and the possibility are my favorite things when opening presents. Those are the feelings I cherish, and those are the moments that make the holiday - whether I'm feeling them or watching someone else experience the sheer joy and excitement.

In short, please wrap my presents with lots of tape this year.

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