Shannon just wasn’t going to stay still, and the fact that she’d just come out of reconstructive surgery was beside the point. I was there to help her out and to keep her from unraveling the doctor’s handiwork, but I had to watch her like a chicken hawk, or the second I turned my back she’d be off that couch tugging on the refrigerator or struggling to work a 50 pound sack of dog food back in its spot. I discovered that if I tackled items on her household To Do list, then she would sit like a contented Buddha for minutes at a time, but otherwise, the need to conquer tasks pulled her out of her Lazy Boy like gravity. Today’s highlighted chore was wrapping Christmas presents, so I descended into the belly of the basement as she pointed out hiding spots for the girls’ toys.
“I’m pretty sure there’s a big sack stashed under Nathan’s side of the bed.” I lifted the bed skirt and peered underneath, but all I could see were army boxes. “No? Then they must be over here.” And before I could even lower the fabric in my hand, she flopped on the floor and latched onto a large bag.
“Hey, you with the stitches in your chest, why don’t you let me get that?”
“Very well.” She stood upright and meandered into the laundry room. “There’s stuff in here, too.”
After dumping the contents of the first sack on the bed, I joined her beside the washer and grabbed every item she designated. I pulled presents from closets, drawers, shelves and cubby holes until I was pretty sure the merchandise in that room alone had put the retail industry in the black the day after Thanksgiving. As I eyed the assortment of toys on the bed, I noticed a certain doll named Lalaloopsy encased in various plastic houses, sizes and forms. With skin the color of Pepto Bismol, a head shaped like the McDonalds’ arches, and two large buttons for eyes, she was a shoe-in for a Tim Burton film. Shannon said they were all the rage, and two out of her three girls were dying for Santa to bring them. If I were Santa, I’d do my best to get rid of those polyfill nightmares, too. I did a quick count of the items that could have provided gifts for the children of Zimbabwe and asked Shannon if it wasn’t a tad overboard.
“Girl, don’t even get me started. I wanted to save half this mess for their birthdays in March, but their daddy insists that they get it all. Look at this,” she said, shaking a box of miniature people. “What child needs three boxes of Legos at one time? I’m going to be prying these jokers off the bottom of my feet for the next year.” She sighed and tossed the box back among a stack of books that made the Library of Congress look like a pamphlet rack. “Now I just need to decide what’s going to be from us and what will be from Santa.”
She began a sorting process, and I dutifully toted stacks up the stairs like a Sherpa. Once I had Midas’ coffers spread across the bar, I started wrapping and Shannon affixed bows and tags. Forty presents and a super-sized roll of reindeer paper later, I finally stacked the last of the gifts on the table.
“Just leave them there. We’ll let the girls arrange them when they get home. They’ll love shaking them.”
I eyed her Christmas tree and remembered having an artificial version like hers all during my childhood. It was painless to put up and easy to take down, but once my dad and I started going after live trees in my high school years, there was no turning back. Those fragrant branches, that lingering scent hanging in the air . . . no artificial tree can match that, I don’t care how many pine Yankee candle car fresheners you hang on the branches. And don’t even get me started on those fluorescent white things some people put up. I know they’re supposed to represent a tree covered in snow, but they always look anemic to me and in need of an emergency visit from the Red Cross Forestry Division for a couple of pints. Don’t misunderstand me; if you have one of those frosty atrocities in your home, I say to each his own. Besides, somebody’s got to buy them and get those suckers out of the stores. Wrapping mission accomplished, I picked up Shannon’s car keys from the hook, and we set off for Sadie’s Christmas party.
The Christmas party for the pre-K consisted of sugary breakfast items and a visit from Santa. The venue was the school gym/cafeteria/auditorium, and the children sat on the half court line and waited for the Man of the Hour to arrive. Parents flanked the sides armed with digital cameras and camcorders, and the children sat fidgeting in crisscross applesauce style with the exception of one little boy who was huddled behind his daddy, a local police officer who was packing heat instead of holiday cheer. When the jolly, old elf appeared in all his red, velveteen glory, the little boy peeked around his father’s shoulder and fingered the gun in the holster. I could tell that one false move from the guy in the brass buckles, and Santa would be wearing a chalk outline as an accessory.
Once the presents were distributed and the children were given the cue, little hands tore into paper with the gusto of the Energizer Bunny on crack. Sadie came barreling over with a gigantic Lala doll, and I shuddered just looking at that polka-dotted apron. Thank God I was part of the Cabbage Patch movement. Now those were some classy dolls. I popped a cheese wedge in my mouth, and we hit the road.
© 2012 – Traci Carver