Volume 12, Issue 50 ~ December 9 - December 15, 2004
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Burton on the Bay
by Bill Burton

Shopping for the Women in My Life
Do you hear what I hear?

I don’t know what you, dear reader, hear, but my ears pick up the jingle of cash registers as the holiday approaches. That’s even at Macy’s, though that department store chain won’t get any of my moola until the bigwigs of the New York-based group change their tune and return the word Christmas to their holiday greetings.

One can go too far in aiming to be politically/socially correct.

Surely, there’s no connection between the current push to giving cash for Christmas and Macy’s thinking that something like “Holiday Greetings” was more appropriate than “Merry Christmas,” seeing that many shoppers aren’t Christians. If that chain were the only store in town, I’d be first in line at the bank to get ten, twenties, and perhaps even a C-note or two for a special loved one on my gift list.

Shopping Styles
Tell you what. At times — and for some on that list — I’d prefer to stuff a greenback or two in a fancy envelope to put in a stocking, under the tree or in the mail. Even more so now that I hear that a spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute (based in my home state of Vermont) says “it’s absolutely appropriate.”

It’s not that I dislike Christmas shopping. I rather enjoy it to a point, that point being choosing the right gift for one on my list, wife Lois. For that, I procrastinate. Usually it’s less than a week before the big day that I do what little shopping there is left for me to do. Lois holds the master list and buys some gifts early at sales or when she sees something someone might like. Then she gets into serious shopping on Black Friday.

Me? Tell you what I’d do to escape the madhouse the day after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday last, with the temperature down around freezing in early morning, I boarded Capt. Ed Darwin’s charterboat Beck-D out of Annapolis to go on the chase for rockfish. It was a bit breezy, uncomfortably cold until late morning, and the catching was lousy due to a discolored Bay, courtesy of the stiff winds on Turkey Day. But I’d do it again before I’d go fishing for gifts among the throngs on that heralded day of bargains galore.

Lois got her limit of gifts that day, when our fishing party got only one small fish. Tired as I was from being beaten by choppy water and the chill, she was more bushed when she arrived home with more sacks and boxes than Santa carries in his big, brown bag. Kohls, I believe, now holds the second mortgage on our homestead at Riviera Beach.

What to Get a Wife?
Lois’ name is atop those on my list, and I can’t do any shopping for her until I learn what the kids are buying her. To tell the truth, I’d rather put a few big bills in her stocking. She likes jewelry and clothes, but I know little about what’s currently in style with either — nor much more about what she has, doesn’t have, wants or doesn’t want. If I ask for suggestions, she’ll tell me, and then she’ll know what she’ll be getting. And doesn’t that ruin all the surprises on the Day of St. Nick?

In 1967, the year we were married, we were in Mexico City when I spied a dress I’d like to see her in. I bought it on the spot, hid it in our luggage until we returned home and then wrapped it up in bright holiday gift wrap and presented it to her under the tree. She never wore it; said it was inappropriate for a teacher, which she was back then, when standards were more old fashioned. Mistake Number One.

Another time, I asked daughter Heather what would be an appropriate gift; she got all hyped up and spent hours looking around fancy shops. When Heather came back with a suggestion of what Mom really would love, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. And though I was a hero, that diamond ring set me back more than the car I was driving at the time. Mistake Number Two.

A few Christmases later, after giving Heather a course in Finance 101, I gave her another shot. Under the tree was a silver fox jacket, but Lois didn’t get to wear it much; at about the same time animal rights activists began tossing bottles of ink at fur attire worn in public. The coat remains under wraps in a closet. Mistake Number Three — and so much for Heather’s input.

They say it’s the thought that counts, and considering that I’m a frugal New Englander, it seems to me a fancy envelope loaded with crisp bills is evidence of much thought. Not Lois. She thinks a husband should pick out something he’d like to see his wife wear. She can’t seem to appreciate that women’s sizes aren’t as easy to decipher as men’s, and that while men’s styles pretty much stay the same, a woman’s in-fashion selection can turn on a dime.

Grandpa Makes Out Like Santa
Granddaughter Grumpy (Mackenzie, who will be three a few days after Christmas) is easier to shop for. Lois chooses the big gifts; me, I try to think of things a little girl would want. I was a Great Depression kid, and how disappointed I was with clothes — though they were more practical back when times were tough. So for Grumpy, I scout around for toys and fun things.

Grumpy’s tastes change as fast as women’s fashions, but currently she’s into anything with wheels, trains in particular. That suits me fine; when I was a boy I only once got a Christmas train, a wind-up Lionel. So a train tops Grumpy’s list as well as mine, though we already have three trains in addition to a bigger trackless bump ’n’ go locomotive with bells, whistles, chugs and lights.

That’s the fun of being a dad or a grandfather. Mothers and grandmothers tend to be more practical; they load the kid up with snowsuits, boots, caps, mittens or other things to wear. The men opt for something to play with. Macho as we men would like to appear, we have a lot of kid still in us — especially if we were around during the Depression, when a toy or two was all that Santa left under the tree.

Of course all of this doesn’t always set well with the mothers and the grandmothers; fathers, grandfathers and Santa are the heroes, giving the toys that produce the shouts of glee. The fancy attire selected by mothers and grandmothers remains on display under the tree unnoticed. Then it’s put away in a dresser or closet until it’s time to wear it.

So Christmas is fast approaching; I still must decide on Lois’ gifts, but for Grumpy I’ve been impulsively shopping for weeks, with a couple more buying sprees to come. Let mother and grandmother figure where the toys will be stored, Grumpy’s house or ours. This is the time of year when Grandpop can’t lose. In these times of social change, it’s nice that men can win one, if only for a day. Enough said …

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