Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Shopping Eve

(December 24, News-Herald) I am done shopping. Seriously, I’m done.
I am one of those people who suffers from severs shopping disorders. I have trouble gearing up to shop, but once started, I have real trouble stopping. And I don’t improve with practice. So far this week I have made four trips to the grocery store. And I’m not counting the time I went to the store, realized I didn’t have my wallet, drove home to find it, couldn’t find it, realized it was in the car, and drove back to the store.
Meanwhile, my daughter is home and in baking mode, so I have been on ingredient patrol (since my home is usually only occupied by a single guy, it is ingredient-free). I take lists. I still have to go back. Four trips so far this week. And I am writing this column on Monday night.
It is the Christmas shopping that pushes me over the edge.
I work hard to shop locally. I do not think less of people who cruise to Pittsburgh or Erie to do some big time shopping. But every penny I make as a teacher comes out of some taxpayer’s pocket, so I feel an obligation to put back as many as I can.
This year a new national initiative emerged called the 3/50 project, tooting the horn for local independent businesses. Pick three local independent businesses you would like to see survive. Spend fifty dollars. It’s an excellent thought. Here’s a way to take care of our own without turning to big government for a cure. Lots of folks worry about the local economy, and this is a way they can put their money in the same neighborhood as their mouths.
But local shopping has challenges. In the later stages, I can make fewer trips because I have the stock of many stores memorized. Some stores have clearly tightened their belts by sending salespeople home (but no, I will not use the self-check-out—if you want me to work for you, then hire me).
And memo to local business operators: Nobody wants to support you more than I do, but sometimes you make me feel that I want to give you my business way more than you want to get it.
I shop only for family. My family of origin was once five people large, but continued expansion and recruitment has swollen the ranks. To me, that means an ever-enlarging list of people to get Just The Right Thing. A well-chosen present says, “I like you.” I want to make sure the gifts I give speak up clearly. If I start buying presents for every friend, co-worker, and Person I Just Generally Like, I will enter a prolonged anxiety attack, worrying that I shortchanged someone. Overlooking ALL my friends and co-workers lets me feel I’m at least being evenhanded.
I blame this gift-giving anxiety on my mother. She begins Christmas shopping in June. You would think that would make keeping the secrets difficult (our presents are traditionally unknown until unwrapped), but she rarely spills the beans. What she does do is call the beans names. She has already told me that she is giving me what she gives me every year—a Lousy No-good Present.
I have also stimulated the part of the local economy involved in package delivery. It’s not just the wonders of—there are, for instance, lots of good books that are no longer in print, but luckily I’ve found, a massive used bookstore on line. And I can present fret any hour of day or night.
I know there are people who find gift-buying heinous, viewing it with the same glaring eyes that our Puritan forefathers used when they banned the holiday entirely. Those folks can go sit with the people who carp about the imaginary War on Christmas.
I think there is something sweet and commendable about indulging the desire to do something nice for the people we love; the fact that such giving involves a sacrifice of ordinary mortal money is a fine echo of the larger immortal sacrifice that Christmas foreshadows.
I like getting people stuff, and Christmas is a fine excuse to do it. But I will be glad to sit back later tonight, take in a Christmas eve service, go to bed while my grown children have their traditional slumber party, sleep until my son harasses me into wakefulness, and enjoy a day tomorrow during which I need do nothing but enjoy the day.


Joanna said...

Amen, and amen :) We'll see you Saturday with our own No Good Presents, but bought locally as well.

Matt and Steph Bell said...

Love it!!.. I especially laughed when I read too fast and read "people who crap out an imaginary War on Christmas" instead of "people who carp about the imaginary War on Christmas." Hope you had a good one anyways.

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