I took my dad out shopping for my mom’s Christmas gift the other day. A few strange things happened while we were shopping. First, my dad paid with a credit card which he never does. He pays for everything with cash. It doesn’t matter what he is buying, it could be a candy bar or a diamond ring and he would pay with cash. He uses plastic so infrequently that when he does use it he usually ends up leaving the card in the machine. My husband and I were both standing there with him as he pulled out a wad of cash with the small blue card in between. He hesitated for a second as my husband and I stood with our jaws on the floor. I watched him calculating the number of days until Christmas and determining if he would be able to get to the bank where the nice ladies supplied him with crisp hundred dollar bills, before he finally handed the card over to the cashier who was looking a little confused as to what all the fuss was about. He didn’t know that this event was similar to watching a gorilla use tools for the first time.
As we completed our purchase the salesman shook hands with me and my husband and grabbed my dad in a big bear hug. Maybe he did understand what a monumental event this was after all. Or maybe he realized that he was in fact meeting santa claus. Or maybe he was just so relieved that this transaction was finally complete that he had to hold onto someone for a second. We went on our merry way to complete our shopping, as my dad tucked the little piece of plastic into a different pocket, making sure it didn’t make an appearance again.
Normally it takes about a half day to buy my mom’s gifts with my dad, but this day was different. We were finished with our shopping in record time. I’m not sure if it was the trauma my dad incurred from pulling out that little blue card or if he was excited to pick up his granddaughter from school, but we were out of the mall parking lot quicker than the old folks leaving church on their way to brunch so we decided to drop my husband off at home before picking my daughter up from school. This is where the other strange thing occurred.
We pulled into the driveway to drop off my husband and I jumped out of the car to go refill my glass of water. While I was in the house the UPS man pulled up with a package. Instead of leaving it at the door he walked up and tapped on the window of the car where my dad was sitting and gave it to him. When I returned from the house I found my dad sitting in the car with the package. I promptly opened the box to find a gift for my husband and a little sample of lotion inside. I ran back into the garage to throw the box in the recycling bin as I handed the little packet to my dad and told him to rub it on his face. My Dad has been suffering from terrible dry skin over the past several weeks. Both my mom and I have been slathering his face with lotion every chance we get. As he rubbed the lotion from the little sample packet into his skin he said to me “I don’t know what the dry skin is from, I’ve been getting it ever since I had the syphilis.” I’m glad we were parked or I would have crashed my car. I think what he meant to say was diverticulitis. He spent two separate weekends in the hospital last August with a kidney stone and diverticulitis. Or maybe he thought he had psoriasis. Either way, the word he was looking for was definitely not syphilis.
Even after a twenty minute interrogation I was unable to determine what he thinks his condition is and where he got it. My mom thinks it’s from getting in the hot tub late at night and the steam getting all over his face. I’ll have to remember to make sure their hot tub isn’t infested with hookers like in that Rodney Dangerfield movie where he goes back to college with his son. That could explain why my dad thinks his dry skin is caused by a venereal disease. I’m glad we were parked in line to pick up my daughter when he turned and said “well if it’s syphilis, your mom must have given it to me. She’s always talking about her back-up plan guys on TV when I die.”
I was standing in a very long line yesterday while Christmas shopping in the middle of the day. The woman in front of me was still looking at the stands of last minute gifts as she was walking up, taking her time as we slowly inched along. She turned to me and said with a smile “If I’m taking too long looking, feel free to go ahead of me” I laughed and used one of the hangers in my overflowing arms like a cattle prod and told her I would just move her along when the gap got too big. I had watched the woman in front of her cut in line with a cart full of merchandise as we all walked up to the neck of the bottle of the checkout line. She literally pushed her cart around this woman to angle her way in to the line first. I wasn’t in a big hurry and either was the happy shopper in front of me so we both just kind of laughed at the lady trying to steam roll herself to the front of the line.
We started talking about the temperament of people shopping at this time of year. Apparently the police have been called out to several parking lots in our area already for people arguing over parking spaces. She told me how someone had taken a spot she was waiting for while she was entering the store so she just parked down the aisle a little further. I hadn’t really noticed the chaos in the parking lot since I tend to park far away and walk the distance to the store. I already have too many dings in my doors from parking at the gym where nobody knows how to open a door without it physically touching the car beside them.
As I was talking to this woman I realized that she had already had a parking spot snatched away from her and a woman almost mow her down with a shopping cart to get in the checkout line ahead of her. Her response was “life is too short” and I couldn’t agree more. I understand that people are rushing around to get all of their shopping done in time for the holidays while trying to also maintain some semblance of a normal life, but it’s not like this is the first time Christmas has come along and all of the extra activities have just happened with no notice. It’s the middle of December, if you don’t like shopping with half of the world standing around you, do it in July or shop online. Don’t go shopping a week before Christmas and get annoyed that other people are doing the same thing.
We continued to chat as we made our way to the front of the line where I learned her daughter is home from college and they go to a church I love. I gave her a free mini facial from the bag of goodies I carry with me and told her to go give herself a little pampering that night. We both made our way to our assigned cashiers and wished each other a Merry Christmas as we left.
I don’t know if I am just not paying attention or if I have been going to the right stores, but I haven’t encountered a whole lot of bad behavior this holiday season. I took my Dad out shopping and I found a parking spot right in front where he didn’t have to walk that far and we didn’t have to wait in any long lines. Maybe my holiday spirit is just making it an easier process. I love shopping, I love giving gifts to other people and I love Christmas music. Or maybe it is that I have eaten enough of the cookies I have baked this year and actually turned into an elf. I guess I’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
I wrote this blog while listening to The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
As I was driving my daughter to a sleepover at her Grandparents’ house the other day she asked “Why are there so many songs about Santa at Christmas and not that many about Jesus? It’s His birthday and there aren’t even that many songs about him”. Part of me wanted to tell her that people are selfish and songs about Santa are popular because people want to hear songs about what the fat man may bring them this year. I wanted to tell her that people want to focus on all of the “stuff” that comes along with Christmas. I wanted to get on my high horse and preach, but I didn’t. I told her that there are a lot of songs about Jesus, they just aren’t on satellite radio. I explained that just like my punk rock, songs about Jesus had been banished to the stations people can only get on their computers at home.
This of course expanded into a larger conversation about why people are more comfortable celebrating Santa than Jesus. We talked about her Advent calendar and the season of Advent. We talked about Advent being the season of celebrating Jesus’s birth and that for us the best way to celebrate is to try to behave more like Jesus would. We do this by giving ourselves to others. We donate to charities, we make gifts for people, we spend time together as a family.
We have a beautiful advent calendar that we use every year. My husband and I wake up in the middle of the night panicking that the pocket for the following morning is not filled. We are hardcore Adventers. When we first started this tradition, our daughter was young so the pockets were filled with goodies for her, small toys and chocolate mostly. When she was old enough to understand what Advent is really all about we started putting little homemade tags in the pockets. Now the gift in the pocket is either a charitable act or something to do together as a family. The problem with this is it is a lot of work for us to keep track of everyone’s schedules and coordinate who is driving over to give the bell ringer money or what craft we might be starting. There are some scheduled events but mostly it is me moving around the “watch a Christmas movie” tag just in case we forget a night.
We are over halfway through the pockets this year and I think I have reused the same tag three times now, but that’s okay. My daughter understands what this season means to us and that is a gift. Our conversation diverted to Santa being more like the three wise men bringing gifts to Jesus at his birth. I’m just hoping this doesn’t lead me on a quest to find myrrh at 3 am one night next week.