Thursday, December 13, 2007

That’s a wrap – almost

As I write this at 5 p.m. on the second Sunday in December, I’m trapped in my own house, held hostage by dogs, dragons, a goofy moose and a rattlesnake.

They’re among dozens of unwrapped holiday presents — most of which needed to be in the mail last week.

I love giving gifts, but I’ll swear I didn’t buy that many.

The presents and the stuff to wrap them with have commandeered our living space, inch by inch, couch by chair by countertop until there is no room left for us.

I must wrap, wrap, wrap — or sleep standing up.

I, too, have been decorated by the glitzy uprising, but Ralph Lauren would not approve. Glue remnants on my fingers, elbows and nose have attracted a frosting of Styrofoam pellets and slivers of gift wrap. Ribbon is jauntily draped over my left ear. I have pens and scissors tucked in the top of my bra (my shirt doesn’t have pockets). And I look like I’ve been playing cat’s cradle with Scotch Tape.

Few of the presents were expensive. In fact, most are gag gifts. But each was carefully selected for the recipient. Now we want to get all those boxes where they need to be, quickly … so we can sit down again.

The dining table is the chaos epicenter. It’s buried under scraps and strips of wrapping paper, twists of curling ribbon, stray tags and enough tape to hold the International Space Station together.

But Lord knows where we’ll eat dinner.

We can’t even dine standing up at the kitchen counter. Empty shipping boxes are stacked there until I figure out if any of them are big enough to do the job.

Our front hall is packed with stuffed cartons that need filler, tape and mailing labels. The plan had been to get them in the mail by Dec. 5.

Whimper, whine. The delay isn’t all my fault. Some gifts I ordered in early November are still on order, lurking out there somewhere, floating around in a virtual shopping cart on the World Wide Web.

It’s decision time: Do I mail the in-house presents tomorrow, so recipients could at least get some of their gifts by Christmas? Or can I wait a few more days on faith that the deliveries will finally arrive?

I feel like a bit like young Winthrop in "The Music Man," waiting for a mythical stagecoach.

So now it’s 9:30 p.m. and about half the gifts are wrapped. But many don’t yet have their ribbons or the time-consuming tags that, according to family tradition, must include customized puns or word clues.

In the meantime, well-placed Post-It Notes give me hints about what’s inside each package. If those fall off, I’ll have to start over. Not a happy thought.

My self-imposed Monday deadline looms.

For most people, the gnarliest part of sending gifts happens later: waiting in long lines at the shipping center. But we who mail things from a North Coast post office have three lovely choices.
There’s rarely a line at two of them.

We frequently ship from the tiny Harmony post office in the middle of the block-long downtown area. Officer in Charge Tracie Fischer keeps the office open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But if we’re heading north for any reason, we’ll stop in to see Postmaster Kathy Wilson at Old San Simeon Village’s post office, on the northernmost edge of historic Sebastian’s General Store. The store’s still closed for remodeling, but the post office keeps chugging along, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

It’s such a warm, fuzzy thought: We can send our packages without wasting three hours standing in line, and our annual shipping charges could help convince postal authorities to keep the tiny rural branches open.

Back at Chaos Central, the still-unwrapped dragon and the snake are on guard duty over there.

And I’ll swear the stack has 10 more gifts on it that I’ve never seen before. Where’d that plastic angel come from?

But for tonight, it’s a wrap, no matter how you define it.

And, by the way, Merry Christmas!

E-mail Kathe Tanner at Read more "Slices" online at

No comments: