O Lord, I learned that on Boxing Day — December 26 — British aristocrats rewarded those who waited on them during Christmas, giving servants boxes of gifts and money. Only fair, right? But, Father, I’m just as glad Americans don’t celebrate it. With our definition of “boxing,” OMG, those who have tired of relatives just might don gloves for mean Monday night smackdowns.
This post first appeared on December 16, 2020.
Veteran Christmas shoppers have seen it all. We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, seeking parking places in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds and hostile, Klingon clerks.
Once, I watched two scary grandmas in line ahead, battling over who was first. Would they take out all of us?
Enter online shopping.
I don my loudest holiday sweater and drink hot chocolate in my favorite Christmas mug. I assemble credit cards and password lists.
Ready. Set. Shop!
However, my laptop’s not in the Christmas spirit — crankier than a teen awakened on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.
It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. When I Google “Target,” it makes me one, sending my address and accompanying maps to various Middle Eastern websites. Then a pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I switch to purchasing a storybook instead, the website informs me others who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”
Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my tall, thin son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised, I’ll find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXXLarge.
Wait. I see it!
One size large, tall, in un-girly blue plaid. In stock! But the perfect shirt can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it’ll arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.
I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three cost more than $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, I get free shipping. No?! I must spend $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.
Pre-Internet nostalgia overwhelms me. I miss Christmas fairylands. Humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did. I miss harmonizing to “What Child Is This?” in stores, celebrating the true Reason for the season.
So, I’ll again circle for parking spots — in any zip code. Though … the scary grandmas probably are still battling.
We other shoppers will watch — from a distance.
Maybe we should bring along pitchers of cold water?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or in-person shopping? Why?
High school graduation celebrations have changed since my husband — then boyfriend — and I graduated in 1971. Boy, we painted the town red.
We went to the Dairy Queen.
Today a 50-cent sundae no longer cuts it. Graduation celebrations now resemble a Times Square New Year’s bash or a Walmart’s grand opening.
Parents suffer from open house syndrome, in which they attempt to recreate their worlds before anyone discovers they’ve been living in squalor. Forget painting the living room. Talented home renovators add new wings, while home improvement klutzes knock out one too many walls. To offset costs, creative parents charge admission to open houses, with extra fees for use of bathrooms and chairs. Some install magnets in sofas to collect loose change.
Mothers experience acute cleaning disorder. Even the gentlest women blow away dust bunnies. Advanced cases not only clean under their own appliances, they sneak next door to scrub under neighbors’ refrigerators. While most recover, chronic sufferers cannot cope with normalcy. When they run out of children to graduate, they recruit teens off the street.
Those with severe graduation syndrome also share all 50 poses of their children’s senior pictures with waiters, flagmen and ATMs.
Other aspects of graduation have changed. Cards nowadays are honest: “Congratulations! We never thought you’d make it!” and the ever-popular “Happy Graduation. Here’s money. Please leave our state.”
Although graduation gifts have evolved from pen sets in 1971 to Porsches in 2022, books remain a staple — a mystery to students, as they have waited 13 years to escape books. Still, they open Great-aunt Clarabelle’s rectangular gift, hoping it contains gold bars rather than devotionals like God Is Watching You at College.
Hubby and I would never hurt friends’ feelings, so we attend open houses and force ourselves to eat piles of meatballs and little hot dogs. To honor graduates, we sample each and every cake, finishing with a sentimental stop at the Dairy Queen.
With full stomachs, Hubby and I return to a house full of junk. We’re afraid to open closet doors. The yard resembles a pasture.
We jump back into the car and cruise downtown. There’s gotta be a kid there who needs an open house.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How are graduations celebrated in your area?
O Lord, another spectacular sunrise! Amid glorious sherbet-colored clouds, the butter-cake sun shines through dark-chocolate trees … um, sorry, Jesus, dieting is getting to me. But viewing Your generous artistry day after day — OMG, where do we funny little people get off, thinking You aren’t Love?
“Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” —Unknown
In case you didn’t collide with card, candy, and teddy bear displays, I’ll inform you: Valentine’s Day was Monday. Think in terms of a major apology gift. Half-price chocolates save money, but will they impress your lady?
Perhaps I can suggest tips for future reference.
At all costs, avoid the “I-love-you-every-day-why-should-I-give-you-a-gift-now?” defense. Like the adage, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses,” it contains elements of truth. But you’ll lose, big time. Unless you think sleeping on the couch — or driveway — is fun.
Fortunately, my husband figured this out. He’s come a long way since our first Valentine’s Day, when he gave me a history book. No, I’m not making that up.
After 47 years, though, he’s a master gift giver. Hubby should offer lessons on finding cards that make a wife’s heart sing. However, he faced a common February quandary: I adore chocolate, but I’m dieting. Should he give me only a card?
Some men bypass the obvious solution: flowers. Instead, they buy their ladies lingerie.
Seriously? When women are hating mirrors, are suffering from starvation, and are pushed around by skinny exercise gurus wearing Spandex?
Admittedly, it’s a cruel dilemma — only one of thousands women inflict on men.
Guys should blame marketing geniuses of the late 1800s and early 1900s who married chocolate and Valentine’s Day.
During the 1860s, beverage manufacturer Richard Cadbury discovered the answer to his own dilemma: how to use cocoa butter that remained after processing chocolate drinks. Before his descendants manufactured the eggs associated with his name, Cadbury marketed valentine candies in beautiful boxes he designed himself.
Milton Hershey reinforced the Valentine’s Day-chocolate connection when he began selling tear-dropped chocolate “kisses” named for smoochy sounds chocolate made during processing.
For a time, chocolate equaled milk chocolate. When I, a second grader, received my first Valentine’s Day chocolates from towheaded Paul Henry, I didn’t nitpick about milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet, or semisweet. Unlike modern connoisseurs, I didn’t debate whether white or ruby chocolate are true chocolate.
Question free candy? Stupid.
Speaking of stupidity, some gourmets have “diversified” chocolate. They’ve invented a chocolate éclair hot dog. Chocolate and black pepper goat cheese truffles. Even chocolate calamari soup.
I told my love, “While I crave both seafood and chocolate, please don’t get creative on me this Valentine’s Day, okay?”
“Since when have I been creative?”
“By the way,” Hubby continued, “why should I give you chocolates, when you’ve only given me cards?”
However, he, too, has been avoiding seconds at dinner. Toughening up with weights.
Should I give him the ultimate symbol of my love and concern for his health: broccoli dipped in dark chocolate?
Maybe just a card. …
Tune in February 14, 2023, to see if these old lovers learned anything during their chocolate chat.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What does Valentine’s Day look like at your house?
O Lord, I’m not sure what the older grandkids thought when they opened their Thanksgiving packages. But thank You the little guys loved the noisy, gobbling stuffed turkeys their weird grandma sent. And, OMG, thank You that my children and their spouses didn’t write me off forever.
O Lord, it’s a tough world right now. But OMG, thank You for a new purple hat and other silly blessings that give us grins!
Not that those who celebrate December birthdays have it so great. Do children born in June receive gifts with tags that state “This is for D-Day and your birthday”?
Still, in December, the whole world puts on its festive best. You share your birthday month with Jesus, and that’s a cool thing.
January birthdays don’t generate similar enthusiasm, as the whole world diets. No matter how you decorate it, a birthday veggie tray with fat-free dip doesn’t attract the same crowds.
At Christmas, people mortgage their organs to be with kin. By January 2, however, even close relatives develop allergies to the cold – and each other. An important safety principle: the cosmos will crash if we see relatives more than once a year.
Even those willing to risk life and limb to attend January celebrations face gift challenges that would daunt Santa. As of December 25, Birthday Boy already owns a robot that makes his bed, does homework and gargles for him. He has stashed his excess Christmas cash in T-bills, since the stock market is down.
Mom and Dad could use a nice little check, which makes gift-giving easy if the birthday person is a grown-up. But many adults don’t feel like blowing out birthday candles in January. Their years have risen like heating bills. Nice little birthday check? They need gold bars to shrink January Visa bills.
I even sympathize with my brothers, born this month. I didn’t when we were children, however. Only weeks after Christmas, they received another gift, whereas I waited until March to collect birthday booty.
Two of our grandchildren celebrate January birthdays. My husband notes that they enjoy the old-fashioned games we give them more than electronic versions: when they lose, they can throw game pieces at their siblings.
But if January birthdays bug them as they grow older, we will point out that even January birthdays haven’t stopped Martin Luther King, Jr., Carl Sandburg, or the painter Cezanne. Or Benjamin Franklin, Mary Lou Retton or George Burns. Or Edith Wharton, Mozart or Jackie Robinson. No birthday veggie trays have kept them from leaving unique footprints in their worlds’ snowy paths.
God Himself decorates for January birthdays. Plus, He gives hills to sled, snow forts to build, and hot chocolate with gooey marshmallows to guzzle.
Best of all, He has made January the premium snuggle and huggle month for all ages. Hugs never show up on a Visa statement, and they leave love imprints no raging snowstorms can erase.
Actually, a January birthday is pretty special. Just like our grandkids.
Are you a lucky January birthday girl or boy?
O my God, this morning, I’m puzzling about what to give my only granddaughter for Christmas. What? While I wasn’t looking, she graduated from Play-Doh to Bath and Body Works? OMG, how amazing. How wonderful. Now please help this grandma cope!