Now don’t start shouting about the guys out there that help out around the house, I’m talking about the real stuff. And at this time of year that means fighting the crowds, doing the shopping, wrapping the gifts, baking cookies, writing out the cards, racking the brain for stocking stuffers, etc., etc.
As a worn veteran of this Christmas milieu, one year when my son and daughter were pre-teeners I decided to make holiday shopping a family affair.
Since my husband was related to at least half of our relatives, I figured it was time for him to help decide what to buy for his mom, his brother, and his niece and nephew.
I thought the kids should also put their two cents in about what grandma and grandpop and cousins and aunts and uncles might enjoy as gifts.
Well, the day started out well. I decided not even to try to take this show on the road to the Hamilton Mall. Rather, the smaller Shore Mall seemed to be the proper forum. It would allow the kids to even wander a bit on their own to maybe find that gift for their dad. Or, hey, they might just want to get something for me.
The drive up the Garden State was uneventful and things were going pretty good. But then we hit a snag and to be honest â€” which is always a good thing but particularly at these holy times â€” I can’t even remember what prompted our “disagreement.”
All I do remember is standing in the middle of Boscov’s and arguing â€” not too loud, we do have some manners. I don’t think it was over a particular gift or game plan.
I think they may just have been ready to throw in the towel before I felt we had accomplished everything we set out to do that day. I am always overly ambitious when it comes to to-do lists. It’s a personal failing that I’m trying to outgrow.
Anyway, my more dramatic side surfaced in the midst of these heated discussions and I finally said and I believe these were my exact words, “Okay, you can all go and I’ll just take the bus home.”
Now, as everyone in this county knows, taking a bus around here, if possible, is often a day-long commitment and may require four days prior planning. Although an hour from home, it could take me till the next day to get that bus ride home.
But I spouted my line, turned on my heel and walked away. Did I mention that my minor in college was theatre?
Of course, after I stalked off I realized I was holding shopping bags full of our purchases. Not smart for someone who is opting for public transportation.
My husband disappeared with the kids out the front of the store. He’s not too sympathetic to grand gestures and hates ultimatums.
So I wandered in the store a bit, having a heart to heart with myself. Realizing that silly was not the least of labels I could attach to my behavior.
I knew the bus came to the rear of the mall but I eventually wandered to the front and with hope that my husband, always more level-headed than I, had not abandoned me to my own self-imposed stupidity, went out to the curb.
There sat the family car with everyone patiently waiting.
As I took my seat in front, my husband smiled and told me that my son, the eldest, had been advocating, “We should just leave her,” while my daughter was arguing against it, because “we can’t make mom take the bus.”
The irony is that in her early years she had plagued me with oaths of “I hate you” and had made many public experiences horrendous with her less than cooperative behavior. My son, by contrast, was always solicitous and never needed to be asked twice to do anything.
It’s interesting whom you can really depend on when the chips are down.
My daughter must have responded to some deep ancestral memory and knew that where Christmas shopping was concerned mom needed her support.
That was the last time I ever tried to make Christmas shopping a family event. Who wants to tempt fate?
Cote, who reports on Avalon and Dennis Township, writes from Cape May Beach.
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