Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping

Ah, Christmas!  What emotions the word brings to all Christians.  One of the two most significant days in the Christian faith.  No one can escape it, the Hallelujahs, spiritual decorations, the joy.  The spirit of Christianity abounds during this season.  Through the years, how many Noels have you sung?  How many special events have you attended at church?  The birth of Jesus Christ...WOW...quite the celebration... as it should be.

Then there's the secondary phase for Christmas, the giving of presents derived from the Magi.  Remember the story in Matthew about the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem?  The Eastern Christian Church celebrates Epiphany on January 6 and sets the number of Magi at twelve, but Western tradition sets their number at three, probably based on the three gifts of “gold and frankincense and myrrh.

When you were a kid, do you remember what a big deal Christmas was?  (Good for you; some of us can't.)  Most youngsters relate to the event by thinking about presents.  We instill this in children's minds with letters to Santa, sitting on Santa's knee at the local mall telling him what they want, making out lists, etc.  It's not a bad thing, but I wish parents would emphasize the real meaning of Christmas a little more.  As an example, my daughters have a special birthday celebration for baby Jesus, including a cake.  I realize churches do their utmost with Christmas pageants and services, but I believe parents should communicate the true meaning of Christmas at home.

Speaking of presents brings up the subject of shopping for them.  Normally I'm a traditionalist; I love old customs that help family units and friendships bond.  However there is one old practice I'm ready to cease, abate, quit, stop, give up, never do again--Christmas shopping, at least in the traditional form.

I once had a business agent in South Africa say,  "I don't know how you Americans can make a decision.  You have so many choices."  He hit the nail on the proverbial head, but he should have continued with "and so many stores to buy them in."  One would conclude that you could go to a single place to purchase all your gifts.  But not at Christmas time.

As she's putting me to bed, placing my head, shoulders and feet in the correct position so I don't wake up looking like a saltless pretzel, Gal Friday mentions,  "We're doing a little shopping tomorrow."  Sounds innocuous enough, right?  So I give her the ole,  "Sure, Honey."  (Bite your tongue, Edward.)  In the morning she helps me get out of bed, into my chair and into the bathroom.  Then the fun begins.  She undresses me, helps me into the shower chair and bathes moi.  After the towel dance and application of various lotions, of which I'm afraid to inquire about, she dresses me, gets me back in my chariot and we're ready to go.  Oops, I forgot breakfast.  I'm already exhausted and ready for a nap.  I figure she has to be too.  But there's something amazing about women; no matter how tired or sick or depressed they may be, they can always muster up strength for shopping.  God gave them a special organ called the shopping reserve.

We are lucky, depending on your point of view, to live just a short twenty miles from an outlet shopping complex.  This fact, along with the absence of state and local sales taxes, initiates a warm glow in the hearts of all area women.  At this time of year the warm glow heats up to a white hot flame.  Is it the shopping or spending that evokes such rapture? I'll never understand, but then again, I don't think we guys are supposed to.

Gal Friday is ready; she has made out her list. List-making is a favorite sport of hers. She has elevated making lists to an art form. The problem sometimes arises when she forgets where she last placed her lists. Regardless, she has her list, which is long enough to challenge a roll of toilet paper. I've learned not to have her secure my chair to the van floor because of the numerous times we'll be shopping in different stores. It takes time and effort on her part to continually tie me in and let me out of the floor four-buckle system and this alone would wear out a healthy teenager.

The outlet center is not like going to a mall where all the stores are under one roof. The center is spread out over approximately the same distance as from L.A. to Bangor, Maine. If you have twenty items on your list, you will have to visit about thirty stores. Many shops will be out of the item and they'll direct you to another. What fun to find thirty different parking spaces. What a joy to find thirty spaces that allow the van's ramp to deploy. Handicap parking spots are always taken and we have to park so far away the lights from the emporiums are dim. Why is it that there may be a row of stores a mile long, but only one of two places for a wheelchair to get up the curb to store level? Why don't these palaces of pleasure or pain, depending on one's outlook, install automatic doors, not just for handicapped people, but for anyone inhibited by opening doors? By the time I roll down the ramp in East of Eden until I get inside a store, I'm tired and frozen. Gal Friday sneaks me into the ladies room and uses the hand drier to defrost me. We love the family bathrooms.

OK, we're in the store, I'm back to a near normal temperature and Gal Friday's ready with list in hand. She tells me to follow and don't get lost. She starts down a main aisle but then darts into an alley about one foot narrower than my chair. As commanded, I follow. The slim path reminds me of a Lionel train track. Have you ever shopped from a sitting position? I have a great chair that goes forward, backward, up, down, but not in and out. You can't shrink the size of my ride. When in these narrow aisles, usually my chair extends about six inches into the items hanging on both sides. I'm a fairly adept pilot, but nobody can navigate through a maze of tiny pathways bordered by racked clothing without a single mishap.

Invariably, my trusted leader winds me through the women's undergarment department. Sometimes I exit with a bra, usually A cup, hanging off one ear and a pair of thongs that could encircle a pregnant elephant. Does Gal Friday do this on purpose...nah, she's too nice for that...isn't she? Speaking about bras, brings to mind a grievance of mine. My chair height places my eyes at the same level as most women's breasts. I'm so sick of looking at lady's endowments. Er, I lost my train of thought. Oh yes, the wonderment of Christmas shopping.

After plowing through hundreds of these slim pathways, we come to the department claiming one item on her list. At the third garment of the same item, with a jeweler's loop, she examines it for flaws and finding none, decides to make the purchase. She asks my opinion. I didn't care if the item was slashed on Elm Street, extra large for a petite niece, or made on Mars, I tell her it's perfect. I am so ready to go. We depart for checkout. Whoa, all but one checkout counters are closed. This one is manned by a feeble old woman who reminded me of Whistler's mother. I checked her pulse to confirm life. Her speed...reverse. A line that could circle the globe waited to ring up their purchases. Sometimes a wheelchair comes in handy. Some people simply wore out waiting. The store manager thoughtfully furnished oxygen and in extreme cases, cots. I was ecstatic; only twenty-nine more stores to go.

Next year, instead of Christmas presents for adults, I'm making donations in their names to charities. The kids--well there's shopping on line.

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