Shopping rituals at Christmas

Setting off on a day of Christmas shopping without any gifts in mind usually ends in failure for Jenny and me. We don’t do very well just wandering around, hoping to stumble on something we like.

But that’s what we did last Saturday. Jenny was beginning to fret about what to get her parents, who live in the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. She’s an only child and they always expect that she will be home for Christmas.
The ritual is usually the same. If asked, her father will say that he doesn’t need or want anything for Christmas, but he would be the first to be disappointed if he didn’t have a half dozen presents to open from us. Her mother sometimes has one or two items on her list.
They are difficult to shop for because they don’t consume much. At 81, he still goes to his barber shop four hours a day and cuts hair, but she has been retired from her job as a grocery store cashier for many years.
Anyway, we left early Saturday for Memphis and Oak Court Mall. We go there because it has a huge Macy’s and a Dillards, department stores that have branches near where Jenny’s parents live. (They’re not bashful about returning gifts.)
We got off to a fast start, buying two gifts in Macy’s within the first 20 minutes. Unfortunately, they were not for Jenny’s parents. We got a set of sheets for ourselves (yes, we going to wrap them up) and another for our son Joe (he’ll be thrilled, or not).
After that the shopping went downhill. Jenny’s mother had suggested she get her father a new pair of gloves. They needed to be brown and thin, she had said.
We looked and looked at gloves. Most were black. Finally, we found a thin, brown leather pair, but the fingertips looked threadbare. The box said the fingertips were made with special conductive thread that allows you to use touchscreen devices while wearing gloves.
“Your dad will think they’re worn out,” I said, remembering that her father only turns on his simple cell phone when he wants to make a call. And that’s not often.
We bought them anyway.
We couldn’t find anything else we liked, so we headed to the women’s department. What a struggle.
Jenny laid out the ground rules: No heavy fabrics (they keep the house about 80). No thin fabrics, like silk or polyester. No V-necks or scoop necks. Oh, and Jenny added that this year her mother said she didn’t want any blouses with dark colors.
“Why did she say that?” I asked.
“Because, she said, when her gray hairs fall out, she doesn’t want them to show,” she replied.
“What else does she have to do but brush an occasional hair off her blouse?” I asked. Jenny gave me the “you-better-not-say-that-to-my-mother” look.
I glanced around at rack after rack of dark clothes for winter. Maybe, we should buy her a lint brush, I thought.
We came home with a pastel blue mock turtleneck and a pair of jeans.
And a dog calendar for Jenny’s dad. It’s a ritual; she gets him one every year. Last year, it was Boston terriers; the year before, boxers. This year she bought basset hounds.
There’s something to be said for ritual.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at