Shopping for everyone pushes gift-wrapping deadline to limit

NEIGHBORS

December 23, 1993|By JONI GUHNE

Christmas is for giving. Nothing compares with the joy you feel when the recipient of your efforts tears apart the tissue, sees the surprise within and is absolutely thrilled.

My gift to myself this year is to start wrapping those presents earlier than my usual deadline: midnight Christmas Eve. Actually, the classification of humans into which I was born -- homo-procrastinatorus -- allows me to transfer responsibility for putting everything off until the last minute to some past affront, real or imagined.

Real enough is one hindrance to my holiday peace of mind: I am expected to shop for everyone in my family. I don't mean the gifts I'm giving.

Since I'm smart enough to work at home (translated: don't have a real job), I'm expected to have time to trek from mall to mall in search of the gifts others in my family are giving.

After all, regardless of the fact that my daughter is old enough to have received the original Barbie doll from Santa and my son feigns ignorance as to exactly what one does in a department store, I am mom, and I remain the perpetual solver of all their problems.

But at least my wrapping burdens have been eased by insightful designers of paper goods. Whoever thought of dropping gifts into decorated paper bags with handles, instead of bothering with boxes and tape and wrapping paper, deserves a New York City parade where, no doubt, that celebrity will be pelted not by ticker but thousands of unpurchased dispensers of scotch tape.

Only one problem remains: what am I supposed to do with my life-time collection of perfectly good boxes that fills every available space in my closets, on my shelves and under my bed. I save boxes as if word has been leaked that a special clause of the NAFTA agreement bans the manufacture of cardboard in the U.S.A.

But, we were talking about giving.

The word "gift" appears in one of my family's oldest, and, yes, strangest holiday traditions. It began when my mother was a child when, perhaps, words were more affordable than gifts, or maybe my grandparents thought the contest took the edge off holiday nerves. Whatever the case, for as long as she lived, my mom would sneak into my room early on Dec. 24 and whisper, "Christmas Eve gift." The idea was to be the first one to say it.

My daughter continues the practice from her home in Baltimore. There's the phone now. Watch this.

*

One of the best gifts is to join family and friends at church on Christmas Eve. In greater Severna Park, services are:

* Asbury Town Neck United Methodist -- 7 p.m. Information: 647-3461.

* Our Shepherd Lutheran -- 4 p.m., 7 p.m. (family) and an 11 p.m. candlelight service with a musical prelude at 10:30 p.m. Information: 647-1658.

* St. John the Evangelist Catholic -- Mass at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and midnight. Christmas Day Mass at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon. Information: 647-4884.

* St. Martins in the Field Episcopal -- 4 p.m., 7 p.m. (Christmas pageant) and 11 p.m. Christmas Day service at 10 a.m. Information: 647-6248.

* Severna Park United Methodist Church -- 5 p.m. (children's service), 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. (candlelight service). Information: 987-4700.

* Woods Memorial Presbyterian -- 6 p.m. (children's service), 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Information: 647-2550.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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