I was visiting David and Lee McGarey in Flagstaff in early November and one morning as I was drinking my coffee… looked up to see their cat at the door. She just stared at me in that most cat like focus sending out vibes that said, “Open the door, open the door, open the door and feed me.” I did. But I still love the image. The beautiful tall tall pines and a touch of snow here and there on the rocks. It was really peaceful and calming.
I realized that it would soon be coming up on the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush rush time. People traveling in flocks more than BC (Before Covid). I realized there would be family gatherings and that some would be peaceful and others would be less so. I realized that we carry a lot of expectation with us. Adults longing for the simpler time when we were little ones and we were served Christmas with presents and surprises and food. It happened to us. It happened for us. We were receivers. I do recall getting excited when I was able to make something for my parents. When I figured out the giving thing.
That giving thing. I graduated college in December in Ohio and was moving to AZ. I got a job as a gift wrapper at the large department store, Lazarus. I worked the first night with a woman who had done it before and she taught me about how to measure the paper to the boxes and gave me wonderful lessons. I thought later as I was able to keep up with the long lines that I couldn’t have done it without her guiding.
People weren’t waiting very well. There was nothing calm about it. People brought all kinds of gifts to be wrapped. Some had to be more cautiously wrapped that others. One lady came with beautiful stem glasses to be wrapped. They were very expensive per glass. I got out one of the larger cardboard boxes, not the shirt box type, and started to put tissue around each one carefully and put them in the box. “Wait! “she cried, “That’s an ugly box!” I explained I would wrap it beautifully and this would protect the glasses in transit. She had told me she was taking them to Chicago. She would have nothing to do with that box. I went in the back and told my supervisor that I didn’t think I could wrap it well enough to protect them and that the store would be blamed. She assured me that it would be ok and if any broke the store would replace them. I still kept them wrapped in tissue paper and put some in the bottom of the box to make it a little thicker. I put the glasses in carefully lining them up so they were close together and would’t move around. Then I wrapped the box. I told her please please be gentle with this box– won’t protect them if you put something on top and please be gentle with them. The box looked great, no different than the brown box would have looked, off she went.
The next customer a grandmother had purchased a large very fancy doll with porcelain head and beautiful hair. It’s for my 4 year old granddaughter. I wrapped it carefully and found out she was not mailing it but taking it to her granddaughter. “Of course, she won’t be allowed to play with her till she’s much older, but I wanted to give it to her now.” I imagined how one might really express that to a 4 year old. “Here it is! You can’t touch it! ” Immediately following was another grandmother with a much smaller cloth doll with a really cute expression on her face. “I’m getting this for my 4 year old granddaughter. Don’t you think she’s going to love the bits right out of it cuddling it?” Yes I did. It struck me how two of the same gifts could be so very different. One to be looked at, the other to be loved.
Ok, one more story. A woman and her older son came up and threw a shirt on the counter, “Wrap IT!” she shouted. “That’s why I’m here.” As I wrapped the shirt, easy to do, she and her son carried on a conversation about like this. “I don’t know why I am getting him a present, he’s been impossible this year. He won’t give us gifts you know and I can’t believe we have to have two meals with him. I am so angry with him. He doesn’t deserve anything from us.” I wanted to say, “put it back”, but I didn’t I just did my job. I was glad I didn’t have to have two meals with them.
But were they in the Spirit? Were they waiting for the coming of the celebration? Were they happy? Over all the customers were happy. Free gift wrapping was great for them. But had they forgotten the reason they were doing this? Did they care?
I am not trying to judge them. I have no idea their intentions. But I do know in these days we sometimes have to wait outside the door looking in on the scene and beg to be part of the peace of the season. Because Peace is one of the greatest gifts we are given at Christmas.
God Abides and I thank God. Bobbie Giltz McGarey, Easton, PA, Freelancing for God