Thursday, April 28, 2011
Every time my kids go to a birthday party, I think of my grandmother. Lola (that's grandmother in Filipino) Tining (that's a Filipino nickname for Cristina) taught me how to wrap presents when I was about nine years old. In those days there were no ready-made gift boxes or gift bags; you couldn't just stick a present in a box and stuff some colored tissue paper around it because colored tissue paper was too expensive. All we used were sheets of wrapping paper and sticky tape that didn't lift off beautifully the way invisible tape does today.
Lola Tining did a lot of gift wrapping. She has seven kids, and each of them have 2-5 children. She has a lot of cousins and friends. That's a lot of birthday and holiday presents. Every holiday season she'd buy a whole load of fruitcakes to give out, and when we were old enough she set my sister and I, her oldest female grandchildren, to helping her wrap them all.
My grandmother was a perfectionist when it came to wrapping. She taught us how to measure exactly how much wrapping paper we'd need, so we wouldn't waste any paper. She taught us how to cut the paper neatly and efficiently with a ruler or envelope opener (scissors took too much time, and they left a ripped edges). She taught us to fold the ends of the paper inward so the recipient would only see a smooth edge. She taught us how to fold the sides down perfectly so that all the fold lines matched up. She never let us tape the wrapping paper to the object we were wrapping because she didn't want the tape to mar the present. She taught us to put little pleats on the front side so the wrapping would look prettier.
Once we had mastered wrapping a simple square object, she graduated us to wrapping more complicated objects like cylinders and irregularly shaped things. My sister was (and still is) much better at wrapping; her presents were almost as neat as my grandmothers. My grandmother had to be much more patient with my sloppy, impatient style, but eventually I learned (I'll never be able to tie a bow like she does, though).
To Lola Tining, giving someone a nicely wrapped present was a way of showing the recipient that the effort she made didn't stop at buying the present. She wanted the outside to be as pretty and special as what she was giving on the inside. Three decades and thousands of fruitcakes later, I know that she taught me so much more than how to wrap a present; she taught me how to make an extra effort and go the extra mile to make someone special and loved.
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