A few weeks ago Derek casually asked me, "So, whaddya want for Christmas?" I was busy with some other chore at the time--packing lunches, wiping the counter, loading the dishwasher, you know, something inane but necessary--so he probably only had about a third of my attention. Thus I flippantly answered him with the first thing that sprang to mind: "World Peace!" Instead of the chuckle I expected, though, I heard an exasperated humph. Then he burst out with, "Dad wants a Lamborghini, you want World Peace...what am I supposed to DO?" That stopped me in my tracks. "Oh, you were being serious?" It's just that he'd never asked that question before, so I was caught off guard by this conversation. You see, we'd long ago left the preschool days of creating a craft-tastic gift ornament for Mom and Dad out of foam and glitter--most of which still hang on our tree, of course. Now, as a pre-teenager, he suddenly had the urge to spend his December allowance on presents for his family, rather than video game like the rest of the year. (Pause to gasp in sheer wonder. Continue...) How thoughtful! How touching! How the heck are we gonna make this happen?
Well, first we needed to bring Riley on board. Next, we formulated a plan for the inaugural Super Secret Shopping Spree. (Okay, technically it wasn't at all clandestine, since the whole crew knew about it...but we liked the cool code name and the aura of intrigue nonetheless...) We designated a date and a destination (Our target? Target. Ha!) And then, for the most thrilling detail of all: real money! That's right, I handed my little consumers cold, hard cash for the first instance in...well, suffice it to say a verrrrry long time. Since the boys most often locate their goodies in the Store of Awesomeness (um, I mean "Amazon") and pay virtually, using Bank of Mom Credit, it doesn't usually make sense to fork over the moolah. But in an attempt to maintain an element of mystery, they were going to experience buying the old fashioned way, by handing over the actual bills. Trust me when I tell you they were practically giddy with joy at the sight of our friend Andrew J.
With all the strategic preparations completed, it was finally time to storm the marketplace. However, without any meaningful suggestions from Husband, our little band of elves wandered around kind of at a loss for a while. (Sample conversation: "No, he doesn't want Angry Birds boxers. You can't get him a Nerf gun just because you want it. He has no use for [fill-in-the-blank novelty item]. Most of these comments were directed toward Riley, who seemed to be experiencing a painful case of Novice Shopper Syndrome...) Clearly, we lacked inspiration. There was even mounting irritation. But at long last we meandered over to the seasonal display, where we found something he would enjoy: a festive tin of Mixed Nuts. No, I'm not kidding, that's what we settled on, for the man who turns out to be the nearly impossible Giftee. Of course, when I pointed them out as an option, Derek snickered. Yes, I said "nuts", get over it! I exacerbated the problem by turning to Riley to explain, "It's perfect, Dad really likes nuts!" At which point Derek snorted and doubled over in hysteria, rendering him useless for several moments until he managed to pull himself together. Sigh.
Whew! With the most challenging person checked off our list, we headed for easy pickings, in the Toy section. We split up and I accompanied each child in turn to help guide them toward a game of some sort that their brother would find amusing. Really, that was the least complicated ten minutes of the entire excursion. Only one task remained: choose something for Mom. Earlier, I had hinted to Derek that he could select a pair of earrings for me, since I wear them every day and, like most girls, have a Love/Love relationship with all things sparkly. I thought this would entirely solve his dilemma and simplify his life...but he shot me an incredulous look and sputtered, "You trust me to pick out something you'll like? Reaaaallly?" Nonetheless--although admittedly with some trepidation--I steered them to the Accessories to peruse the offerings (and crossed my fingers). A few minutes later, Derek came to find me because they were having difficulty deciding. So I did what I should have in the first place, and showed them an example of what I might wear. "You mean, not these?" Derek joked, holding up 3-inch gold hoops. "Or this?" waving a chunky, multicolored, crystal-bedazzled necklace. He was joking, but I'm still relieved that I got to put in my vote before the final selection was made. (Five minutes later as they were tallying their total spending, they inadvertently spilled the beans about what they'd chosen, but it's all good...)
Thus successfully ended what I suspect will be known as our First Annual Team WestEnders Holiday Shopping Extravaganza. The boys were quite pleased with themselves--the budgeting of funds, the choosing of special surprises. I was proud of them for getting caught up in the spirit of giving. And let us not downplay the extraordinary fact that we survived a trip to Target, 6 days before Christmas. Now with the hard work behind us, we're free to sit back, drink hot chocolate, listen to carols, and try to keep Riley (aka "Impatient Santa") from slipping too many clues before the official Big Reveal next Tuesday...