With Bated Breath (complete with embarrassing anecdote)

You guys, right now we are driving to a mall (gah, that word is so 90s) with RR. While there we’re planning to shop for a couple of hours.

I know. I’m as worried as you are. On the plus side, malls suit RR’s personality perfectly. They don’t have shopping carts so there won’t be any acrobatics. Yes, still. They do have large expanses of concrete for running at breakneck speed. As long, of course, as you can devote yourself to chasing after her.

D and I do all of our shopping for each other on Christmas Eve. We have a $50 limit, we pick one shopping center, and we challenge ourselves to find gifts that will make the other feel delighted, joyful, happy, special, inspired, dizzy with laughter.  This is a grand romp as we duck into stores, dodging each other, sneaking through aisles, making sure there’s no accidental peeking, and disguising gifts as we walk together back to the car. For the last two years, we’ve tacked on an extra $10 for a gift “from RR”.  We stick within pennies of the limit.

Rest assured, we don’t go into this event blind. We pick the venue first. Sometimes, like today, we drive to an out of town destination.  Then we take a look at the store list and share inspiration. This year we printed maps to plot our course and we’re headed to a two level, T-shaped location.  Last year was more challenging – a single level, one-sided, strip of high-end shops.  Making that $50 dollars stretch was an exercise in creativity that played out beautifully.

I love this tradition. The stores are often populated by the sort of people who do last minute shopping. The get-in-and-get-out folks, the last minute moms dads aunts uncles, the “she got me something and I totally didn’t see that coming” group.*  These sorts are generally more laid back or are in such a rush to get out quickly that there is no fiddling around at the register trying to get the best deal, the one from the back, the manager. Sales staff are often happy to be on the precipice of a day off. The others have reached the point of resignation. Malls are perfect for this.  I wouldn’t want to be in a Best Buy on Christmas Eve.  And the lines for Santa and at the Starbucks are always out the door, no matter how deserted the rest of the stores are.  That suits us fine.

In a few years, RR will be built into the tradition as she picks gifts for us on her own. And, eventually, that’s where her gifts will come from as well. Today, we’ve taken the baby backpack so that we can restrain her and we’re loaded down with bribes. So wish us luck as we juggle gift buying and baby juggling. And wish me luck for finding perfect somethings for D.  As is tradition, I have no idea what I’m going to give her but it sure is going to be fun when I stumble over that thing that makes her heart (and mine) light up on Christmas morning.


*You guys, I was 15, awkward, and broke the year a high school acquaintance unexpectedly brought me a lovely Christmas gift. I didn’t yet have experience with gracious acceptance and she didn’t have experience with lowered expectations because she said to me, “I’m here for our gift exchange!” And then stood there, hand out. I panicked.  I ran to my room, grabbing a lonely bag of potpourri from one of my mother’s shelves, an empty jam jar, and a ribbon.  I stood there racking my brain for some way to disguise this as a pulled together gift. In a desperate measure, I grabbed a brand new pair of silky green panties, cut out a square from the butt and secured it with the ribbon. Yes. I DID that.

5 Responses

  1. This is a great tradition! The idea of a mall anywhere near Christmas gives me hives, but I might steal a modified version of this. I’m dying to know how your friend reacted to her last minute gift!

  2. Ha! I love your story at the end. That made me giggle. And your Christmas Eve tradition is so fun. What a festive way to spend the day before Christmas. My husband and I, at this very moment, are frantically trying to figure out, how do we get out of the house on this rainy Christmas Eve before we strangle our children, who haven’t removed their pjs in three days.

  3. Wow, what a fun tradition!

  4. I kind of love your tradition. I wish we could make it work, but suspect that we couldn’t. Not gracefully, anyway.

    Critter, too, shares RR’s fondness for running pellmell down the aisle of malls/stores. It’s great fun! No one wanted to slow down and look at any of the merchandise anyway, right?

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