Monday, December 10, 2007

Are You Ready For Christmas?

For a certain class of male, any form of shopping is a chore. Make that Christmas shopping and it becomes a severe challenge best avoided by the faint of heart. And if the prime directive is to produce a present is for the man's wife, it becomes a mission of near-Sisyphian impossibilty.

Newt Harlan, a classic Texas story-teller and writing buddy, has faced just such a challenge and survived, more or less intact. Here is his after-action report.

Bayou Bill


Are You Ready For Christmas?

by Newt Harlan

Well it’s that time of year again. This is the time of year when folks wishing to make neutral conversation can ask you about something besides the weather, so everywhere you go you hear the happy question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” The waitress at the café, the bank teller, the post office clerk, the grocery checker, this is the question you hear almost everywhere this time of year.

Personally, I’d rather they’d just stick to asking about the weather because my answer is, as usual, “NO”. I’m not ready for Christmas. I’m also not ready for Winter Holiday, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan or whatever it is that we’re supposed to be calling whatever it is that we’re supposed to be celebrating at this time of year, this year. It was so much simpler when it used to be just Christmas because back then I only had one thing to be not ready for.

For the record, I’m a Christian. I believe in Christmas. I’m not a Scrooge or a Grinch, but the fact remains, I’m NOT ready for Christmas. -- I haven’t even bought the first gift nor do I have an inkling of what I plan to buy for said gifts.

Really, it’s not so bad as it sounds. There are a bunch of gifts ready to go under the tree for the kids, grandkids and great grandkids. My wife pretty much takes care of that, so all I have to do is offer suggestions on boy stuff and sign my name on the nametags and cards. She even takes care of the signing part, if I’m not around. The big problem is that my wife doesn’t buy the Christmas presents to my wife from me, and that’s the main reason I’m not ready for Christmas.

It’s really not my fault. For years, back when my daughters were youngsters, it became a holiday tradition for the three of them and I to go buy my wife’s presents and I got spoiled. The girls knew the correct sizes and many times their mama dropped hints about what she particularly wanted or needed.

In our small town everybody knew everybody, there were no crowds and people all had the Christmas spirit. We’d just make our rounds to a couple of dry goods stores, maybe one of the drugstores and a variety store or two and our Christmas shopping was done.

Well, that all changed. It seems like it was overnight, but it really has been a lot of years. My girls all grew up, got married, scattered and had their own families to worry about shopping for. Worse, our small town grew up or rather got swallowed up by the growth of our Houston neighbor.

The stores where the girls and I had done our shopping all disappeared, replaced by a mall and a bunch of big box stores. All the people who knew everyone else were replaced by multitudes who didn’t know anyone, much less care---forget the Christmas spirit, just get in the thundering herd and claw your way to the finish line.

Add to all the above, I am not a shopper; I’m a buyer. I know what I want and I go get it and get back in my truck and leave, or even better I get someone to get it for me. Plus I don’t do crowds, plus I’m a procrastinator.

After our girls abandoned the nest Miss Edie got some really neat gifts from me. One year she got a really nice 4-gallon stainless steel pot for me her to cook gumbo and chili in.

Then there was that beautiful genuine rabbit fur vest that she wore almost every day, well at least once or twice, well at least once. (It wasn’t my fault all the hair was falling out.)

The next Christmas I gave her a really high tech vacuum cleaner and 3 or 4 “Clappers” to control lights and appliances and not just one, but three “Chia Pets”.

Oh, and I almost forgot the year I got her the 12 place settings of genuine Melamac dinnerware complete with serving bowls, gravy boat and platters, and the year she got a set of high dollar stainless steel flatware along with a portable mixer.

I think the year I surprised her most was the year I got the bargain on a gorgeous hand-embroidered, monogrammed bath set (I really didn’t think it was all that important that our family initials weren’t RQZ.).

Finally, one year the girls, probably in an effort to prevent a divorce, suggested that I just give them the money and they would handle my shopping for their mama.


That has worked great now for the past 15 or so years. My wife gets gifts that she enjoys and I am relieved of the shopping chores -- just here’s my money and/or credit card and a day or two later, all I have to do is sign the name tags, no muss, no fuss, no problem. Then when we open presents at Christmas, it’s like I get twice as many gifts, my own plus I get to see what I bought for my wife.

I know you’re asking since my daughters handle my shopping, why am I not ready for Christmas? -- Well, here it is getting close to Christmas and my daughters haven’t made contact about the shopping thing. You can bet if they don’t come around soon, I sure as hell ain’t gonna fight them crazy people out there shopping. At this stage of the game, I’m seriously thinking about a nice houseplant and maybe nice pair of new house shoes…

Epilogue: All is well. My number two daughter just came by and the gift situation is handled. Whew! Merry Christmas everybody.

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