Over Easy: There won’t be snow in Bangkok this Christmas

For the Valley News
Published: 12/18/2021 11:26:19 AM
Modified: 12/18/2021 11:26:05 AM

It’s that “most wonderful time of the year” when I am again confronted by the fact that I am not a wonderful Christmas shopper.

Although I grew up with the Yuletide traditions and still am moved by singing Silent Night by candlelight, the magic of holiday gift-giving escapes me. I can’t say exactly why. Do I need a Christmas coach?

I may be out of practice. Through the year I buy what I need, and as I get older the needs grow fewer and fewer. They are also converging from hot consumer trends. We are dazzled by gigantic smart TVs but then declare, “Nah, they look too complicated.” This year I bought two used radios for about 20 bucks each. My Tivoli iPal and Sangean tabletop both are pretty sweet, if you listen to VPR Classical at low-to-medium volume. Increasingly I prefer life lived at low-to-medium volume.

The path to Christmas is a carnival midway: bright lights, jangly noise, a big bag of memories and aromas both tempting and disconcerting.

“Peace on Earth” is kind of exhausting.

For a time I joked about fleeing somewhere like Thailand in December to ease the pressure. Most Thais are Buddhists, after all. Stores there don’t play Little Drummer Boy, do they? Do they even know who Bing Crosby is?

He is one of the ghosts of Christmas past, along with Andy Williams, Perry Como, Burl Ives, Jimmy Durante, Eartha Kitt and others. Their spirits swirl in the frosty air, urging us to feel all those Christmas feelings. I shouldn’t be feeling them. I should be shopping.

Actually, I do start thinking about Christmas shopping in September — tragically late, I know.

Then follows four months of dread, procrastination, hope, delusion (the best gift ever!), rationalizations and the countdown to Christmas Eve. I think thoughts like these: everyone needs socks; a socket wrench is much appreciated when you need one; a Valley News subscription is a gift that keeps on giving.

I have thought of concentrating my focus like a laser by doing all my shopping in one hour in one place, like the gas station near the interstate on Route 12A. “I saw this beef jerky, Uncle Bob, and I thought of you. … Here’s a nice car air freshener, Aunt Clara. It’s made right here in America.”

Last weekend in the clearance aisle at Walmart I thought it would make an interesting challenge to buy all my presents there. My loved ones would receive pool test strips, a Bec the Fire God action figure, a massive bottle of daily vitamins, three gallons of peanut oil and more. Of course it would be ironic, and irony is risky business in December.

You could do all your shopping at a hardware store, though the 20-foot Type II aluminum extension ladder on sale locally this week won’t fit under the tree. You’ll have to buy your own holiday rock salt, because Santa won’t be lugging 50 pounds of pure sodium chloride — effective to 20 degrees Fahrenheit — down the chimney.

There are risks in being so practical. Many years ago a friend of mine got in hot water with his wife when he bought her a smoke alarm for Christmas. She declared it unromantic. He defended himself by saying he was thinking of her safety, and expressing loving concern in a way that perfume or roses would not. She was unconvinced. Feeling under attack, he churlishly countered that she had bought a weed-whacker for his birthday. The gift implied he was neglecting the yard work, he charged.

Sadly, they ended up divorced and so I would never buy my wife, Dede, a smoke alarm for Christmas, even if she dropped hints. I might change my mind if they ever have multi-purpose alarms that play Adele songs until she falls asleep, which would please her and the Lebanon fire marshal, who is hard to shop for.

For better or worse, I can hide my retail shame through the power of gender stereotypes. I sheepishly rely on MOS — Male Obliviousness Syndrome. My wife shops like a warrior while I drift along, full of amusing but impractical ideas.

But time runs short. It’s time to shop. I am no good at fashion. I am indifferent to scented candles. Potpourri means nothing to me. I visit nice shops and feel like I’m in another country where I don’t speak the language.

I would do anything for the people I hold dear, but the perfect Christmas present? Probably not going to happen, not without a miracle. And no matter what the TV specials say, they are awfully rare, even at this time of the year.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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