Of all the memories I have with my dad growing up, I think our most bonding moment was wrapping presents together.
Present wrapping was something he took very, very seriously. He was rarely the one to pick out or purchase gifts, but Mom always left the wrapping up to him. I don’t think he would be considered a detail-oriented person overall, but in his work as an aircraft mechanic and his position as official-family-wrapper, he was meticulous. There is a formula for the perfectly wrapped present; steps that must be followed in order. The selection of scissors and tape is vital to the overall success. I remember being sent to rummage through all the junk drawers, closets, and storage containers for a specific pair year after year that somehow never ended up designated “wrapping paper only” and packed away with Christmas stuff.
It was one of those things I didn’t know I’d take with me when I left. When it comes time to gift something, I’ve always chosen paper over bag. His voice and those images are in my head from the very first unrolling. The scissors start to glide and instantly I am hiding from gift recipients in different rooms, different houses, different states—but always with my dad, on the floor, eagerly watching. He is explaining every step; I’m lining up edges, making sure the pattern matches, placing the tape as hidden as possible, making sure creases come to perfect angles. I’m flipping the box over, hearing him describe how to trim and fold all the flaps evenly before placing the last bit of tape.
This is different than a lot of my other memories that surround him during my growing up. There is no dark shadow over it, no reminder that our relationship has been complicated over the years. There is no sweet moment turned bitter by knowledge and maturity. It is just me and him. Every step reminding me of him purposely taking the time to show me something he cared about. Those memories giving way to other times he worked hard in meticulous detail to do something with me; for me. Like the time he built a doghouse for my beanie baby, Little Joe. I told him what I was dreaming up, and he just went out to the garage and built it to my exact specifications (half red, half white, black chimney, and a curved door that actually opened)!
Now that I’m a parent, I get that. When Abbott has an interest, I do everything I can to cultivate it. I love to surprise him with things that make him smile. And the times I can show him something I care about, and teach him how to do it enough that he cares about it, too? It fills me up! It feels like I have achieved the highest purpose or honor, and we have something beyond just blood to connect us forever. Growing my relationship with my son helps me understand my relationship with my parents. It brings us closer together, and helps to heal old wounds.
I told my husband all this while I was wrapping Christmas gifts last night. He said that I mention it every single year. I didn’t realize that...how important it actually is to me.
I taped the last flap of the last gift in place. I peeled off the backing and put a bow in the top right corner (where bows are supposed to go, always). It sat there on the floor in all its beauty: the item inside, the thought behind it, the product of what my dad took the time to teach me; the knowledge that I am the person I am today because of the things he added to me, both on purpose—in painstaking detail—and without even knowing what it would become in me.
It is a beautiful thing, and I can’t help but be thankful. I love my Dad.
Images by Susie Ho and Kira auf der Heide