Mary Oves Danny Drake

I went Christmas browsing today.

No shopping. I just grabbed my eight year old, ignored his protestations, and dragged him to the mall. Just me, him and my notebook.

Every year I over buy. I'll grab some stuff at Target, a few things at Dick's, some items at Toys R us, a little something at the surf shop; after doing that for six weeks, I'm as surprised as the boys are when they open their presents on Christmas morning.

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"Oooh," I say, peering over a kid's shoulders. "What'ja get?" I am truly surprised to see my son open a Star Wars Lego, and equally surprised to see my other son open the exact same Lego toy 10 minutes later.

I hadn't realized I bought the same thing twice. Time to get organized.

So my resolution this year is to write stuff down. Categorize. Buy sensibly, wrap early. No more of this last minute stuff.

Today was nice. The mall wasn't crowded yet, and Santa was bored enough to high five my kid from across the North Pole fence.

In one toy store, as my son and I wandered the aisles, I heard a thump and a whoosh of air on my back. I ignored it and continued writing down ideas, then felt it again.

I turned to face an apple cheeked sales boy, grinning and pointing an oversize plastic Nerf gun-looking thing at me.

"$14.99," he crowed.

I wondered if he was hopped up on sugared almonds. The Nutty Bavarian stand was right across the way.

"Excuse me?"

"This awesome air blaster is on sale for $14.99. Do you want to try it, little dude?" He held the big gun out to my son, who happily proceeded to blast me a half dozen times.

My mind calculated the price, and amount of times my son would actually use it divided by the amount of days it would take to break, the fear it would invoke in the dog, and the bickering over whose turn it was to use it. I imagined the phrase "Mom, tell him to stop blasting me!!" resounding over and over in the house, and the inevitable rise in my systolic blood pressure.

But it's Christmas. I wrote it down anyway.

"Thanks," I told him, as I jotted it down. "This is cute."

"Would you like me to escort you to the area in which this particular item is on sale?" He grinned maniacally, like a crazed elf.

"No thanks, I'm just taking notes." I moved on, and "Tad" followed me. He seemed confused.

"Uh, writing it down? But it's on sale today." He waved a flyer at me.

I looked at him, and spoke in the tone I use to speak to my sons and my husband.

"I understand, Tad. But I am not buying today. I am only getting Christmas ideas." I wanted to let him down easy, we had gotten so close.

"But when you come back, it won't be on sale anymore. It'll be back to the original price of $19.99." He was still smiling, but through gritted teeth.

"Well, Tad, I like to live on the edge. I'm going to take my chances, and if I have to pay an extra five dollars, then so be it. But I appreciate your warning."

I sidled off to look at the Worms in a Can, and glanced back to see if Tad was following me. He seemed to have recovered, and was air-blasting a large muscled man with a "Bite Me" T-shirt, who had wandered in from the pet shop next door. He didn't look amused, and Tad ceased his attack.

For an hour I walked around, asked sale prices, and scanned price tags, and never bought a thing. I finally relented, however, when I went into the AT&T store, and found a charger for my son's Pantech phone. It had proven elusive for three months, so when I saw they had them in stock, I jumped all over it.

When I got home, I told my son I had finally found his charger, and he reacted with the expected mix of joy and appreciation. I heard my husband on the couch, after a tough day of watching football, offer the following:

"You shouldn't buy stuff before Christmas. You should just walk around and take notes."

Gee. I wish I had thought of that.


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