"Dalton, if you want me to help you shop for Grace, we should start soon," my Aunt Toogie announced. "Brevard and I are leaving early next week to celebrate Christmas at his cabin in the mountains."
Each of the last few years, she has helped me choose Christmas gifts for my lovely wife, Grace. So you can imagine Toogie’s surprise when I retorted smugly, "No need this year. Got it covered."
"Really?" she asked, arching her eyebrows.
"Yep. Want to know how I did it?"
For the past several weeks, I observed Grace and Toogie pore over a mountain of holiday catalogues. Each day a half dozen or more new colorful booklets filled the mailbox. Pity the poor mail carrier who lugged all these bundles. But like an Alberta clipper, the avalanche of catalogues continued.
Every afternoon, Grace and Toogie sat at the kitchen table flipping through the pile of shopping propaganda, sipping hot tea, and sprinkling the setting with an ample assortment of "ooh," "it’s just precious," and "this is so cute."
Having been born at night but not last night, I surreptitiously took all this in and retrieved the discarded catalogues from the recycle bin. What a treasure trove of Christmas ideas! Clothes, electronic gadgets, collectibles, household trinkets, plants, bath scents, gift baskets and food. Oh (make that, Ooh) the food! Harry and David, Popcorn Factory, HoneyBaked Ham, Montgomery Inn Ribs, Shari’s Berries, Fannie May (I thought their business was limited to wrecking the housing market, but they have apparently moved into some yummy looking confectionaries as well), Graeter’s Ice Cream, Norm Thompson (who need take no back seat to the regulator-chefs at Fannie May), Cheryl’s Cookies. Every page is a virtual smorgasbord of scrumptious temptations.
While I couldn’t decipher which items in which catalogues had received the grandest reviews from Grace and Toogie, I still knew Grace and what floats her boat. Selecting a sample of ‘perfect gifts’ from this cornucopia of possibilities was, frankly, child’s play. The icing on the cake was that all these vendors accepted online orders. My holiday shopping was accomplished without traveling to the mall, racing around the parking lot for an empty space, or waiting in long checkout lines.
After relating my saga of purchasing prowess, Toogie remarked, "Well, you are a regular Shylock Fox," referring to the Sunday cartoon sleuth.
"Did it all myself," I added, "and the gifts arrived already wrapped."
"So," Toogie mused, "what did you get?"
"Promise not to tell?"
"I have a hunch that will not be a problem."
"Okay," I gushed, eager to show off my shopping skills. "I can show you on the computer. I saved all the items in a file labeled ‘gifts’."
"How clever," Toogie snickered as I clicked on the first item.
"What the heck is it?" she asked.
"It’s a shitake mushroom log. Grace can grow mushrooms right in her kitchen. She won’t have to go to the grocery and they’ll be fresher than store bought."
Toogie exhaled slowly and then said softly, "Keep going. What else?"
I navigated to another item. "This is a voice-recording grocery list organizer."
"What is that thing coming out of the bottom," Toogie queried, pointing at the picture on the computer monitor.
"It’s a paper printout," I answered gladly. "The organizer attaches to the wall…"
"The wall? In plain view?" Toogie interrupted.
"Yep," I continued. "Grace can speak into the microphone, there, and the gizmo somehow categorizes the stuff she wants to buy at the store. Then she just pushes that print button, there, and out comes her grocery list."
"Imagine that," Toogie muttered, rubbing her fingers against her eyelids.
"There’s more," I gushed. "Star Wars character pancake molds, Darth Vader, Yoda, a millennium falcon…"
Toogie reached out and took hold of my arm. "Hold it there, Dalton. Tell me you also went to Jared."
"Never mind," Toogie sighed. "It was only a metaphor. Did you buy anything, shall we say, more personal?"
"You bettcha," I smiled, clicking to another entry in my computer file.
"What do you think?" I asked leaning back from the monitor so Toogie could get a closer gander. The item under perusal was Hammacher Schlemmer’s Item 71850, gray socks with a battery attachment to warm one’s feet all night long.
"I think it’s perfect," I proclaimed. "Grace frequently comments that her feet are chilly in bed."
"There are other ways to deal with that symptom," Toogie observed dryly, as she patted my arm. "But I’d say these socks have a good shot at making her pretty hot."
Over coffee the next morning, Grace turned toward me. "We should schedule an early celebration with Toogie and Brevard because they are leaving before Christmas."
"Change of plans," Toogie piped up. "We are now leaving town on the twenty-sixth."
"I hope there hasn’t been some unfortunate turn of events," Grace observed.
Toogie chuckled, "Oh no, this is entirely voluntary. We want to be right here with you and Dalton to partake in the exchange of presents."
Toogie smiled at me. I understood fully, smiled and winked back, anticipating she would be tickled pink, which just happened to be the color of her perfect gift - a PajamaGram hoodie-footie.
Note: While Dalton’s articles are largely (but not entirely) fiction, all the lovely Christmas gifts mentioned above do exist just as described.
Shitake mushroom log, Norm Thompson, Holiday Food 2010, page 32, $39.95; Smart Shopper 301 voice recorder, Brookstone, Holiday 2010, page 26, $149.95; Star Wars pancake molds, Williams Sonoma, Holiday 2010, page 98, $19.95; Hammacher-Schlemmer socks, Online, $24.95; Pink Hoodie-Footie, PajamaGram, Holiday 2010, page 33, $79.99.