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“Why are we getting email receipts from weird places?! Was our card stolen?”

 

“Why are we getting email receipts from weird places?! Was our card stolen?”

“No. I went to the Holiday Fair.”

–    by Anne Foray

PROLOGUE

When did Christmas shopping become me standing in front of the gift card carousel at the local Mobil station? Why do I “one click” buy on Amazon all the crap requested by my nephews and nieces? From now on, I refuse…

This is my Christmas shopping manifesto…

I refuse. I used to search for that one special item that screamed to me. In years past, I would wander by a shop window and be so excited to see something suitably bizarre, like a Fabergé monocle necklace, that I would dart inside and yell, “Oh, it’s perfect for her! She’s been to Russia. And she actually read War & Peace. No for real. The whole thing!”

I refuse because I love the giddy excitement of the perfect gift. I love when it takes all my restraint to not immediately call and say, “I just got you the BEST gift. Can I tell you what it is?

I refuse because the malaise of my slick, Prime-shipping life has made me not give a single thought to anyone on my list. No, I click and click and click and sure my shopping is done, but I’ve neglected the whole point.

I say to myself, “It’s been so long. I’ve lost that muse. I have lost my ability to properly shop.” And time! I no longer have the time to wander around until fate stands me in front of a tie-dyed owl that could double as a beanbag chair. That doesn’t sound fantastic to you? I know one little girl who would squeal in delight at a world where owls could be tie-dyed. And that is what gives me hope.

I refuse because finding the perfect present should be an adventure, a heartfelt journey through stores and shops to find that one gift. The right gift doesn’t have to be expensive or luxurious. Really, even a small gesture can be a thoughtful, loving gift. It can be the ball by the register that bounces the highest, the stuffed elephant with ears so soft only the word “velveteen” applies, a bookmark crafted by hand to go in a book that I know you’d love, or even, a banana bread that I made (with chocolate chips and without the help of my three Typhoid Marys).

It is with this fire that I went to the Holiday Fair. “I am searching for nothing and no one,” I chant in my head. My mind must be empty of preconceived notions of what my children would love or what my husband would agree to pay for.

[In the spirit of full disclosure, my eldest daughter’s Girl Scout Troop was selling greeting cards in the Kid’s Sales section in the Cafeteria. So, there was a thoughtless $5 I had to spend. And of course I would spend that, because it’s her troop and I’m not some monster who won’t buy their kid’s greeting cards. And of course my younger daughter tagged along so there went another $3 for a light up squeaky, spiky football that I wanted to throw from my car window on the way home. But I digress…]

“Mom! I need this! Can I have $20?!” My younger daughter is on my side like a barnacle.

“No. I am searching for nothing and no one.”

“But…”

“Nothing! And no one!”

And she vanished into the crowd, no doubt searching for a kind vendor to give her yet another free candy cane.

Sure, I’m a sucker for small talk. And the whole town was there so I talked and talked and talked. But as I talked, my eyes darted and my thoughts ran: necklaces, beautiful sweet little furry vest, oh look, that looks like an ice cream cone but it’s actually some sort of cake on a stick. I like cake. And on a stick. That’s ingenious. And then I saw it…

I search for no one and nothing but… my latitude and longitude pillow in bright orange. I love latitude and longitude stuff. When you search for no one and nothing, miracles happen. All of a sudden there is enough WiFi in the gym to process my AMEX payment from the vendor’s little square money -sucking contraption.

And there is the Barnacle. “What’s this?” she asks, picking up a bright red flower made of felt.

“It’s a hairclip,” responds the lovely vendor. “You can have it.”

The Barnacle throws her arms up in victory. “Yes!” The Barnacle runs her tiny fingers over the felt. “It’s so soft. Who is the pillow for?”

“Daddy.”

“Good choice.”

And the Barnacle dragged me past a baker, a clothing booth, and beautifully intricate beaded necklaces. “Mom! Look at this! They are crayons but shaped into things!”

“Yeah. In my Mother Magnificent days I melted all the broken crayon pieces down and made them into fun shapes and you accused me of giving you defective crayons.”

“But look! This one looks like a Lego man!”

I search for nothing and no one but… a wall size golden Letter A made entirely of Match Box cars! I search for nothing and no one but my son who loves the alphabet and cars and trucks and all modes of transportation. I love ridiculous artsy wall hangings. On a Venn diagram of my likes and his likes sits this one item: a huge golden letter made of Match Box. And the coolest part? Even after being sprayed gold, the helicopter blades still spin, the tractor buckets still lift. I took a business card. I stare at the gold letter. I ask the lovely vendor. “How much?” She told me the price. It wasn’t ridiculously expensive. It was less than a big set of Lego. And those Legos would be lost for all eternity down my air conditioning vents. “Can you make a big letter ‘M’?” I ask

“Is it for me?!” screams the Barnacle excitedly.

“Nope.”

“Then who is it for?”

“Your brother. And I love it.”

And the miracle of meaningful Christmas shopping manifested itself in yet another AMEX charge.

“OK.” I say to the Barnacle. “Let’s go see how your sister is faring?”

I must admit. The gymnasium had some phenomenal creative offerings but the cafeteria and the hallway held some true gems.

Beautiful photographs, sensational crochet and knit, and an actual photographer taking portraits. She was very nice and she acquiesced to the Barnacle helping herself to a glossy pink balloon. “This place is amazing,” the Barnacle whispered to me as we walked into the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is where my daughters really came to appreciate the “I look for no one and nothing” mantra but the words “except for me” are tacked onto the end of their mantra. The little button earrings were a steal for $2 as was the handmade bookmark with copper coil embellishment. The Girl Scout’s greeting cards were astonishingly well designed and beautifully printed for $5. There were amazing Christmas ornaments. If you missed the offerings of the young business people in the cafeteria, you missed out.

My daughter’s shift was over and I was out of cash. But, something was ignited in me. The drive to, at the very least, try this year. I pledge to try to find the gift that says “Yeah. I know you said you wanted those slipper socks but I refuse. You can’t see you the way I see you. And you are so much more than slipper socks. And besides, no one actually wears slipper socks because they remind everyone of the hospital. No. I saw this. And I thought of you.”

Have a happy Holiday Season. I’ll be thinking of you.