Well, Christmas came to the Shepherd house this year, just like always. Decorations were up the day after Thanksgiving, lights strewn on the bushes outside (not pretty, but practical), nativities were found, and the stockings were even hung off of the mantle. I even got all my shopping done early, thanks to Amazon.
I cannot stand shopping malls. They are a trap for people like me. I shop with a list, always a list. I have learned never to browse, to go to whatever store and retrieve the specific item I am searching for. The mall distracts me from my purpose. The pretty colors, the shiny banners, the kiosk venders all seek to suck me in and add to my list, thus blowing my budget. Don't even get me started on the people at the kiosks.
Two years ago I finally decided to jump into the 21st century and do all of my shopping on-line. I fell in love. I could open multiple tabs, enabling bargain shopping. I could shop at night while the kids were sleeping, while wearing my pajamas! I could even shop with my husband. I found the check-out, at least the first time around, to be difficult. It just involved so many steps!
I was done with all of the Christmas shopping by the first of December. As packages came, we just shuttled them to my husband's office. He kept asking me if I wanted to come and check them, but I had absolute faith. I mean, boxes were coming, so what could go wrong?
On Christmas Eve, after a day of festivities, we got the kids all tucked into bed, and at 10:30 snuck over to his office to gather our loot. As I excitedly opened boxes, envisioning the smiles on the recipients' faces, I became a little worried. The boxes had things like Sunday school materials, or free gifts from catalog companies. Only two boxes had the gifts I picked. All of the boxes were opened, and were VERY short of our three gifts per child.
I felt confused.
I felt angry.
I may or may not have blamed my husband. I may or may not have cried uncontrollably while blaming my husband. I may or may not have accused him of losing boxes, of forgetting where he put them, of destroying them. It is a blur.
Suddenly, though, in the midst of my confusion, I knew the answer.
"Go to Amazon," I said flatly, dread filling my stomach. "Look in cart."
"Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no, Kara," was all my baffled husband could mutter.
Oh, yes. Apparently, I had not executed the last step in the online check-out process, so my intended items had never shipped.
Here it was, 11 o'clock on Christmas Eve, and we had two gifts. Now, we don't do a huge Christmas - three gifts for each child, some candy in their stockings, but I could not imagine how to redeem this situation. We trekked back home to tell my parents the sad news. I was still crying, mostly at how mad I had been at the poor hubby, when I was the one to blame. My parents had sympathy, but no answers. Lee started the car, intent on finding somewhere to purchase something.
Did I also mention that it was snowing and the roads were icy?
The city was dark, snow was blowing around making visibility difficult. Still, my fearless husband drove on in search of a merchant who could provide goods for our stockings. Finally, we saw the lights in the distance - Walgreen's was still open! I felt a flicker of hope; perhaps my children would have gifts to open on Christmas morning.
The place was packed with people last-minute shopping at 11:30 on Christmas Eve. Walgreen's looked like a battle zone, everything picked over and tossed hither and tither. Still, we found Monopoly, Fuzoodles, nail polish, a remote control car, and a foot massager for my parents. I got myself a pair of slippers and Toblerone for Lee.
I learned a couple of things that year at Christmas. First, shopping at Walgreen's for Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve is not the worst thing in the world, but it is not the best way to stretch your dollar. It was really stinking expensive to get all that stuff! Secondly I learned that, as trite as it sounds, Christmas comes no matter how prepared you feel. I will admit that I felt a twinge of sadness that the ones I loved most would not be opening gifts that I had painstakingly shopped for. I do put a lot of thought into what I gifts I give, but that year I was pushed to make spur of the moment decisions. Now, two years later, I do not remember what I was not able to get, but I do remember what was given instead. Laurel still uses her pedicure set, and Kiley' Monopoly set has seen hundreds of turns around the board. Spencer's remote control car didn't last long but enjoyed an eventful life, for sure.
So, finally, during my 37th Christmas on this earth, I learned to live the truth that Jesus taught, that all the songs repeat, that every Hallmark commercial conveys: it is not about the best gift. Rather, it is about my best gift. It would seem that any gift, when given in love, is received in love.
Even a foot massager.