Some of us, over the course of our adult lives, come to a quiet, disheartening conclusion about our relationship with simple tools.
I can barely use a can opener. Certainly not a Phillips screwdriver. Keep me away from socket wrenches or somebody loses an eye. Christmas terrifies me because of bikes and dollhouses. I once put together a Barbie mansion with such an astonishing lack of skill I got a foreclosure letter. Don’t even get me started on the Kraft Vintage Kitchen. The thing comes with a fridge, a microwave and a cordless phone. It might as well be a real kitchen.
Long ago I made a pact only to buy toys already assembled. Dinosaur Hot Wheels with a working volcano jump? Not happening. Barbies? They are God’s gift to overthumbed dads. I bought my daughter enough Barbies to repopulate the earth.
All I had to do was wrap them.
That’s the next problem.
Note to Mattel: the trapezoidal assemblage you’ve packaged your dolls in is unwrappable. Please use a rectangle or a cube. Please don’t use curved edges and whatever you do, don’t wang the side off a perfectly usable square into some kind of sloped edifice. That’s just mean.
I know why you do it. It’s to protect the environment. You want to protect the environment? Make the box a shape a man can wrap. It takes me 17 rolls of paper to get one of these things sealed. You know how they say we lose an acre of trees every minute to deforestation? Around Christmas, that’s all me.
I tried shrink-wrapping our presents, but I set one on fire and the wife made me quit. My only hope was the last resort wrap, the Tootsie Roll twist, where I just curl a sheet of paper around the poor doll and twist like I’m losing tug-of-war, then tape the ends liberally. By liberally, I mean bullet-proof.
And all my presents end up like this, little table-top piñatas with my kids pounding them, hitting them, and attacking them with knives to get to the good stuff inside-which is never what they wanted.
One year I got my son a set of LEGO race cars. When he finally got the wrapping paper off, he’d torn one corner and sliced through the plastic. He said, “Really? I’m 11.” My daughter kissed me on the cheek, patted me on the head, and said, “Nice try.”
I finally tried planning ahead. I had a nice flat gift. I laid the paper out on the table, got a yardstick, measured, flattened, pleated, folded, taped, folded again, taped again, and finally, when I was all done, I had a beautiful, perfectly wrapped present. I turned to look for a bow on the counter and saw the actual toy by the coffee machine. I picked up the gorgeous gift I’d just spent an hour working on and it fell limp across my hand. I’d just wrapped nothing.
I put it under the tree anyway.