Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going Shoppping

I'm hopeless when it comes to holiday shopping.  I am incapable of exercising restraint.  I see it. I want it. I buy it. I wrap it. I give it. I smile.  I like every single one of those steps.  The thought of holiday shopping starts a special kind of adrenaline coursing through my veins.  I miss it when I have to stop.  Let's parse each section, shall we?

I see it.  The whole shopping experience has been bifurcated into going shopping and doing my shopping.  The first requires leaving home and interacting with live humans in public spaces.  The second requires electricity and connectivity and the ability to retype a credit card number and remember a security code.  I decided to go shopping this morning when the cleaning ladies arrived an hour early thereby cutting into my brownie baking time slot.  Tucson Mall is huge and confusing and noisy.  The parking lot has sneaky areas which are accessible by making a series of left turns in unexpected places; I always park there.  Until recently, it was only close to Macy's.  Since last winter, though, we've added Cheesecake Factory and REI and California Pizza Kitchen and H&M all in that same corner.  I drove, I parked and I went in to see what there was to see.

Trendy clothes can be found down by the University, on the street that passes for a college town near the UofA.  Most of them, as I have reported before, are much too small for even my little self.  But today I wasn't looking for things for myself.  The Cuters and TBG were to be the recipients of my largesse, so I looked at things through their eyes.  I love plaid flannel shirts and corduroy slacks (and men who are wearing them) but Big Cuter disagrees with a vehemence he rarely exhibits towards clothing he doesn't have to purchase himself.  The kid hates to shop, but he knows what he likes.  I sighed and turned away from those racks and filled my arms with things I'm confident he'll like, or which are at least within the realm of possibility.  

I want it.  The Mall is filled with kiosks staffed by Israelis.  These are the pushiest people on the planet.  They seem to rotate between the stalls selling herbal heat packs and decorative plastic cell phone covers and plush rocking horses and personalized Christmas tree ornaments.  I rebuffed the 20-somethings hawking make-up by asking them to look at my unadorned face, telling them that "This is as much make-up as I ever wear."  But Ravid, the nail care guy, inquired if he might ask me a question and now I have one very shiny buffed fingernail and the inside of my left forearm has been exfoliated and cleansed and moisturized to within an inch of its capillaries.  I didn't want any of it, especially not for more than $100.  I don't care how long it will last - I can't spend that much on smoothing out my wrinkles.  I've earned each and every one of them.  I can't say that I got through the hallways unscathed, but I didn't do as much damage as I could have done.

I buy it.  Except when I am in Wal-Mart, I never see anyone using cash to complete a transaction.  I love my Marriott Rewards Visa.  It's grey and unassuming and gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and bother.  I pay it all off every month, and I always have a general idea of what the bill will be.  I read each and every line item.  I know I'll be smiling and remembering this day when the bill comes.  I don't spend it unless I can afford it and it's worth the price (hence, no $100 skin creams) so I rarely have guilt when I leave the shops.  Sometimes I don't buy anything.  On those occasions, it's helpful to have a friend along.  She can shop, I can hold the bags and pretend they are mine, and I've got a vicarious thrill without spending a dime.  Today, though, was not one of those occasions.

I wrap it. G'ma taught me how to use Hallmark's sticks-to-itself-when-wetted ribbon to make huge and colorful bows.  She was precise in her cutting and taping and folding and this acorn didn't fall far from that tree.  I save gift boxes from year to year, clarifying the gift's provenance by adding Not From atop the printed Gap or Macy's logo.  I do the same with gift bags and tags.  To: Little Cuter's Toes/From: Santa's Heart can be used for an annual gifting of socks.  For several years running I purchased much too much wrapping paper on December 26ths, but I never have enough stickers and labels of love to go around.  I'll spend a day with the rolls and the ribbons and the tags in a messy but organized mess in the breakfast nook off the kitchen (the counters and stools are very handy).  By the end of the day, as if by some miracle, everything is shiny and bright and the piles are basically the same height.  

I give it.  Hanukkah presents are mailed and opened when I'm not around.  Christmas presents are placed under the tree after the Cuters have gone to bed.  I never worried that they would creep down the hall and look to see what was there.  The first time Big Cuter taunted me in his 3 or 4 year old voice saying that he was going to stay up and wait for Santa and see his presents early I put a very concerned look on my face and said "Oh, sweetie, don't ever do that.  Don't you know what happens to the presents if kids sneak in to look?  POOF! They vanish in a cloud of smoke."   I met his skepticism head-on.  "You think I'm making that up?  Maybe, but it's a heck of a risk to take, don't you think?"  I asked him about it over Thanksgiving - to this day he has never crept down the hall to see what Santa left. 

TBG will play carols on his song-flute-that-he's-had-since-the-4th-grade as I turn on the tree and then watch them march into the living room.  Remember where I started this post?  I have no restraint when it comes to Christmas shopping.  There are always many too many boxes and bags.

In my defense,  I rarely buy anyone anything during the year; my gifts of love are brownies and funny comic strips with love notes scribbled in the margins.  But something happened to this Jewish girl when she fell in love with TBG's Episcopal family.  Nannie did the holidays with so much love and thoughtfulness and preparation and diligence and have I mentioned love, yet? It became obvious that I was in the presence of a master.  I paid close attention and, I have to say, I think I do Christmas better than any Jewish girl you know.   The secret lies in concentrating on this part.

Watching their eyes as they read the old cards and laugh at the old jokes and admire the new clothes and can't wait to send Nerf missles at one another...... well, it just doesn't get any better than that.  I love getting presents of my own, of course, but I am finally able to say, without any equivocation or sense of irony or the mundane - it is truly better to give than to receive.  

And then, I smile.

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