Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to the Mall

Now, really, doesn't Christmas always fall on Dec. 25th? Every calendar I ever owned marks that day with a big red number - "25." A person can't miss it and most people I know, especially children and mothers, watch as that number comes closer and closer. Before I know it, that number floats in front of my eyes like a distorted face when looking closely at a round ornament. I get sick of hearing the television and radio screaming out the countdown of the days left to shop. As soon as one Christmas ends, I begin paying close attention to the conversations between my family members, including the musings of the man who believes in Santa Claus. I consider myself to be a fairly good gift-giver and I honed that skill by listening for conversations that included the words, "I want," "I wish I had," "I saw this. . ." and other such spoken wishes. When my kids were young, before school even started, I got in the habit of scribbling lists in a notebook I keep in my nightstand, with each person's name at the top of each page. After I buy a gift, I star it and write a "w" next to each present after covering each gift in matching paper and ribbons. Oh yes, don't forget the gift tags. After all, whose heart doesn't flutter when they see their name on a gift and know that someone spent the time to buy something special for them and them alone. Well, most people receive gifts chosen especially for them. I would, of course, write "From Santa," on the kid's gift tags but really wanted to write "From Mrs. Claus." But that would disturb the innocent, little children because when we visited Santa's Workshop at the mall, my kids sat on the lap of a big, kindly but scary-looking man in a red suit. I could barely restrain myself from yelling out, "Santa's not a man and never has been, at least at our house." But I went along with the fantasy, at least until Christmas morning.

Knowing that Christmas always comes in December and one short month after Thanksgiving, why does my husband wait to shop for my gifts on December 23rd? We play the same game every year with him asking for my list and me believing that this could be the year for "the" gift, the one thing I don't write down but secretly hope he knows me well enough to buy. I consider myself relatively easy to buy for and my friends and my children don't seem to find it very difficult to ply me with surprises every year, even on my birthday and Mother's Day. But, inevitably, Christmas morning arrives and Mark eagerly hands me a gift to open, all the while stumbling over his words, i.e. "I know it's not what you wanted but they didn't have your size," or color or whatever reason the box didn't hold the coveted surprise gift. I don't know any other way to make shopping any easier for him than I already do. My list comes complete with item name, color, size and which store stocks said item. I mean, I shop every year and hardly leave my house. All the man needs to do is go online, find listed site and enter item number but he tells me that he doesn't know how to enter the debit or credit card number. REALLY? Then I realize that he is indeed telling the truth. Mark never activated his debit card because he claims not to know how to use the thing. Hahaha - I find that hilarious considering the man can take a computer apart and put it back together or disable an engine only to get the thing running again. I now know that it's probably best that he doesn't use a debit card because upon opening his bathroom drawer to look for something, I find receipts dating back several years. A debit card in his name could truly prove disastrous. He bought something once online and got scammed and that has now become his excuse for never shopping online again.

Needless to say, this year I made the old Christmas list again, making it very short because all I asked for was a screened-in porch. I mean, that's not asking too much, is it? We need to build a new deck so I figured we could screen it in at the same time. I did tell him he could skip the stocking tradition of the Russell Stover's marshmallow Santa because I plan on losing a few pounds and if the candy sits in front of me, I feel guilty if I don't partake. Imagine my surprise (ahem) when I took my stocking down from the mantel and tucked inside sat, not a marshmallow Santa but an entire box of Russell Stover's candy. Sabotage!!! I couldn't believe it but I went ahead and opened it to find the vanilla cream before anyone else could steal it. After all, I didn't want to seem ungrateful for what would probably turn out to be the best gift of the lot. To my surprise, my stocking held several things from the list - a Borders gift card, a tube of Lollia hand cream and a tube of Chicken Poop Lip Junk (don't knock it until you try it - best lip balm ever but don't ask me why the name). Mark then placed several gifts in my lap and the excitement on his face reminded me of our kids in their childhood when they came into the living room to see their presents under the tree. I remarked that he should probably lay off the coffee as he seemed quite jittery to me. I know now that it wasn't excitement as much as nerves. Upon opening the first gift, I spied the maker of some perfume on my list but alas, two boxes came together inside the plastic wrap, a ploy to make sure you spent extra money purchasing two to get one. Unfortunately, if I wanted to smell like a Granny Smith apple, I would just take a bite of one and let the juice run down my chin onto my clothes. Can a person tell if they will like the scent without taking off the plastic wrap? Of course not, so now I own two bottles of will-never-use-why-did-you-buy-this scent. Returnable? Not with the plastic wrap off the boxes. Just another holiday ploy. Of course, if Mark paid close attention to the list, I wrote the name of the desired perfume and it's maker, but "since he didn't have his glasses on at the time," he didn't realize he bought the wrong kind. Darn.

The next two boxes held two nice, gray sweaters, neither one the sweater I put on the list. But again, waiting until the 23rd ensures the shopper that the store will not have the size or color on the list and this lets the shopper off the hook. He can then purchase a wonderful, always useful, gift card but this time he did not. Mark asked his oldest daughter to finish the shopping and sadly for her, she bought two gray sweaters just to be on the safe side. Tiff knows what I like but this time she didn't know that I owned one sweater almost identical to one she purchased. I hated to tell her and her dad but the pockets on the side of the other sweater looked like two elephant ears that God mistakenly placed on my hips. I just couldn't bring myself to look like a zoo animal even if it would keep me warm.

Sadly, none of the boxes held a screened-in porch or even a miniature rendition of one but Mark did tell me he found someone to give us an estimate. As for those other gifts, my wallet holds cold, hard cash from the return of those sweaters. And the perfume, well, I decided I'd spritz it all over the kitchen so when I start my weight-loss program, Mark will think those vegan burgers and salad taste as good as green apple pie.

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