two thousand twenty
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By John Addyman

   It was frightening.
   The darn things were everywhere.
   It’s the day before Christmas Eve, and I’m trying to help my wife out. First, she was worried about having enough time to finish wrapping all the presents for the kids.
   So I decided to help.
   But the first present I started to wrap drew some comment from the peanut gallery.
   “What are you doing?” my wife asked me.

   “I’m taping up the loose ends of the paper so the wrapping won’t tear off,” I told her.
   “The kids are just going to rip the wrapping off,” she said. “You’re using too much tape.”
   Right away we had a conflict. I learned to wrap presents in two ways – first, through the tutelage of a professional window-dresser in Scranton, PA, a guy named Tommy Culkin, who had to be 70 years old. We would wrap boxes and put them in the store windows at Christmas time, and they had to be beautiful. He spent about two hours one day showing me how to wrap things so they look great.
   I also learned how to wrap presents in a shipping department, where we had to make sure what we put in a box was going to look pretty similar when it came out the other end of its trip, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service.
   My wife is a minimalist present-wrapper.
   I wrap for the ages. If the next ice age hits tomorrow, the presents I wrap will still look good when archaeologists find them a million years from now.
   So if my kids and grandkids sort carefully through their presents on Christmas day, they’ll know which one Granddad wrapped and which ones Gammy wrapped.
   Mine have lots of tape on them.
   So I got the wrapping done Thursday afternoon and my wife was suitably grateful.
   Then came my moments of consternation.
   Last year we went to the Christmas cookie sale at the Methodist Church in Newark. I bought five pounds of cookies, figuring that would be more than enough to tide us through the holidays.
   Then my youngest daughter, Mary Kate, came home for Christmas.
   Like her mother, she has never met a cookie she didn’t like. When I went to bring out the cookies for dessert after Christmas dinner, the cookie jars were bare.
   I learned my lesson.
   This years I bought another five pounds of those wonderful cookies, and I put them in a sealed canister and at the bottoms of three cookie jars. And I got store-bought cookies (Keebler mint cookies and Wegmans’ double-stuffed 0’s) and put them into the jars, on top of the Christmas cookies.
   But even though Mary Kate hasn’t shown up yet, my wife – the model for the Muppets’ Cookie Monster – and my middle daughter, Elisabeth, kept depleting the supply, boring down in the cookie jars to get to the good stuff.
   I needed more cookies, so I decided to bake some myself – about three dozen.
   Out of the oven they came, looking great. I made my own icing, and decided to decorate the cookies with Christmas nonpareils – tiny colored candy dots about the size of a grain of alt, but round. I lined up the cookies on a piece of wax paper, put the icing on them, and opened the nonpareils…and started sprinkling.
   The recognition of how big a catastrophe I’d just created took a couple of seconds to hit me.
   First, the nonpareils went everywhere. Everywhere. Check your socks, you might have some there.
   The kitchen counter became a launching pad for the nonpareils. Off they went. They went onto the floor into the kitchen, and headed for the dining room and the living room beyond, some of them searching for a way to get onto the thruway.  
   Why didn’t I just sweep them up?
   Like I didn’t try.
   I quickly found that sweeping up tiny Christmas nonpareils is a lot like herding cats – very tiny cats, every one of them with attitude. The nonpareils are so tiny and so light and so round and hard – and the colors blended in with our flooring – that trying to sweep them up just managed to launch a good number of them to other rooms and floors in the house.
   The cookies took 12 minutes to cook. I needed another 20 minutes to make and apply the icing.
   And an hour to round up the nonpareils on the floor. And I’m sure I didn’t get them all. I just found one in my slipper, and there was another one in the bathtub.
   I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning with little red dots on my back.
   “Do you have a rash?” my wife will ask.
   “No, I will tell her with an honest and sincere face. “I have nonpareils.”
   “I told you that you used too much tape.”


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