Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Love Story

We women have ruined men where Christmas shopping goes.  We’ve taken shopping out of their hands; and we’ll even argue in defense of our mistake, saying they just mess it up anyway.  Which is true, after all. 

But I have a suspicion that men may have tricked us into this arrangement.  It may be just like my brother’s inability to vacuum adequately.  When we were kids and Mom asked him to plug in the Kirby, he always did; but when he finished the stripes were too far apart.  The carpet looked like a lawn mowed by Mr. Magoo.   

Next time, Mom would come around to me on the sly asking if I’d run the vacuum.  Glenn just couldn’t do a very good job, she’d say. 

I actually took some pride and self-righteous satisfaction in my vacuuming until I caught Glenn smirking like Tom Sawyer when he complimented me on my skill with the upright. 

In like manner, we women take the full Christmas list of family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances whom we feel compelled to buy for.  We stew and strategize.  We plan an efficient route of travels between local merchants and malls.  We make forays to and from the car while employing all the recommended security advisories – keys between fingers, head on a swivel, walking briskly, checking the backseat before we get in.  We wrap and ribbon, and sometimes wrap again to mail on schedule for a timely arrival of the gifts to HIS family back east. 

Yes, oh yes.  We’re good.  W. O. M. A. N.  Sing it again.  The men just couldn’t handle it. 

They shop only for us.  God love ‘em. 

My husband and I have an excellent system that takes all the thinking, er, guesswork out of the equation for him.  It would be an awful lot for him, or any husband, to pay careful attention to things his wife admires and comments on in the course of the year, making a mental note, taking private pleasure in planning a surprise for her of something he knows she’ll love.  

Nope.  We put that fairytale to rest about the fourth year of our marriage.  That was the year I was just finishing up with the homemade peanut butter cups on Christmas Eve when he jerked and jumped out of his recliner like a reanimated C3PO.  “Oh my!  We’re approaching the deadline for shopping R2!” he seemed to say in that adorable, befuddled manner.  “We’d best get going!”  

Out the door he went, rubbing his head and patting his pockets.  “I’m going to the hardware store, Honey,” he said, certain he’d duped me completely.   

He was gone a long, long time, came in after dark, apparently empty-handed.  But next morning, parked beside the tree with a bow taped to its handle, was my Hoky.  My very own Hoky.  It’s like a rotary-blade manual-push lawn mower, but for hardwood floors and carpet!  He surprised me after all. 

The following year we devised the system.  Actually, I devised it.  As the season approaches, I scan the catalogs that arrive in the mail.  I circle items I love, but would not buy for myself – this sweater, that pinky ring, these plush boots, that chunky necklace.  I tear out the pages and save them until Black Friday, when I give him the sheaf of papers and say something coy like, “Honey, any one of these things would make such a lovely Christmas gift.” 

I believe I see relief in his eyes, and gratitude, as he accepts the pages like Moses receiving the tablets.  He turns away, shoulders hunched, as though to hide them from my prying eyes.  We never speak of the exchange again. 

I always give him lots to choose from, so I never know what he might select.  But he can’t go wrong.  That’s the beauty of it.  It’s a sure-fire surprise, and a guaranteed happy ending to his stressful holiday season.   

He almost always buys a couple of items from the lineup.  And he’s even taken to doing his own wrapping, usually on Christmas morning.  He’s careful not to square the corners too well, and the tape often gets bunched up and crumply.  It’s his trademark.  Wouldn’t want to get too good at it.   

Am I enabling him?  Yeah, probably.  He could do it on his own if I put my foot down and tapped my toe.  But what’s the fun in that?  

We have a win-win in the real world.  It's even romantic in its own way.  We should all be so lucky. 

Merry Christmas.