Greetings from the Ridge.
“It’s gotta be out there somewhere,” said Herb. “You just gotta know where to look.”
Herb has heard me grouse about the difficulty in finding suitable Christmas presents for various people over the years so he said he’d go shopping with me this season and in his words, put his, “expert eye to the situation.”
My husband is hardly Mr. Shopper. The man can’t remember where we park the car, much less his PIN number, but in a spate of contrariness I took him along this week as I attacked the local malls, marts, and retail mosh pits in search of that perfect gift.
Being the modern couple we are, we first hit the electronics department and Mr. Expert Eye went into action. “Needs batteries. Can’t give anything that depends on batteries. Makes you a cheapskate.” I then led him to the computer section where Mr. Know-it-All announced, “It’s a waste of time to go and buy something that’s just gonna be updated next week. I’m sick to death of buying something called ‘the newest and ultimate’ then finding out next week that I’ll need to purchase an update or download or version 2.1.”
The good news is that in Herb’s knocking out the entire world of electronics we were faced with far fewer choices and once you leave the part of the store selling things that plug in and beep, the crowds thin out a bit. We headed toward the clothing department.
“Freida, you can’t pick somebody else’s color. A woman should know that. Unless you’ve got a colorblind relative in Iowa there’s not a chance in the world that you’re going to pick a color that makes a person happy.” Herb usually only shows good sense twice a day . . . when he brushes his teeth and when he goes to bed. Today was already turning into a three-bagger as I had to agree with him on this one. Encouraged by uttering the first bit of wisdom since somewhere back in the 1980’s, Herb lectured on. “And how are you going to get the size right? If you try to play it safe and buy a sweater just a size or two larger than Aunt Mildred needs then she’ll be insulted that you overestimated her girth.” Herb’s wisdom was at once profound and infuriating, and he was making this quest of the perfect gift a mission impossible.
Which is how we ended up at the food baskets. “Herb, everybody eats. You can’t argue with that.” I allowed as how a basket of fruit or sausages wasn’t exactly imaginative but at least it didn’t give offense. “Food allergies.” That’s all he said.
“Who’s allergic to an apple?”
Herb sniffed, “Used to be everybody could eat anything. Nowadays there’s an allergy hiding around every nostril. Do you really want to see your cousin Albert in the hospital on Christmas Eve? Okay, bad choice. Maybe Albert, but not his wife.” Again, the wise man of Coonridge had me in a merchandizing corner.
I finally threw up my hands in disgust. “Okay Herbie, it’s not very imaginative but maybe a gift certificate is the perfect gift. They can just pick out what they want.” Herb looked at me as if I’d just backed our truck over Rudolph. “Freida, did you know that 40 percent of all gift certificates are never redeemed?”
“How’d you know that number?”
“Okay, I just made it up, but I know we’ve got a pile of them on our coffee table right now and they’re to places we’ll probably never go.”
To tell you the truth, the old man wore me out that day. It’s rugged enough to hack your way through the hordes of holiday shoppers without dragging a persistent naysayer along with you, effectively vetoing every good idea you come up with. We grabbed something to eat then hurried back home to get dressed for our church’s annual Christmas program. We’re old-fashioned enough to skip the drum, guitars and Powerpoints as we dutifully watch the elementary classes reenact the Nativity scene. A delicately draped Mary and bath-robed Joseph made their way down the center aisle of our church and placed the baby Jesus in a manger that some forgotten person hand made many Christmases ago. As Herb and I looked upon the old familiar scene he nudged me. “Look at that, Freida. The color doesn’t matter, one size fits all, it stays fresh forever and you’ll never need an updated version. The perfect gift.”
I smiled and nudged him back. “You’ve just gotta know where to look, Herb.”
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We’ll share our gift with you.